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Over the last decade, smartphones transformed our daily lives. For many individuals, it’s the first thing they use when they wake up and the last thing they use before they sleep. This behaviour leads to Digital Dependency; meaning the excessive use of technology or the internet which might hinder one’s life. There are several different types of dependencies, including social media dependency, phone dependency or having an internet addiction, etc. Suffering from Digital Dependency boils down to the following questions; do you feel tense or anxious when you’re away from your phone? Have you experienced feelings of frustration when you can’t connect to the internet? Do you feel addicted to your smartphone?

A study carried out by Ofcom’s Communication Market stated that;

“Around a third of people say they feel either cut off (34%) or lost (29%) without the internet, if they can’t get online, and 17% say they find it stressful. Half of all adults (50%) say their life would be boring if they could not access the internet.”

This shows that some individuals don’t feel satisfied without a connection to the internet. However, let’s clarify one thing; if you scroll through Instagram for a few hours at a time or binge watch Netflix, that doesn’t mean you’re addicted. It’s only when it interferes with your life that it becomes a problem. It’s important to be aware of your limit. Thus, the fundamental question is, when is it time to log off?

Check out the following tips to help you log off:

  1. Identify what helps you cope – Do you reach for your phone when you’re feeling stressed? Lonely? Bored? If you always turn to technology or the media to help you manage these feelings then this might be a red flag. We shouldn’t need technology more than human contact to help us cope. Hence, it would be helpful to be open to other things such as reading, exercising or meeting family/friends.
  2. Virtual or Physical? – Do you mostly pick virtual contact over making physical human contact? By helping to understand the difference between these two, it would make you aware that virtual contact can be extremely isolating. By simply speaking to someone else, making eye contact and understanding their body language it can help to put you in a better positive mood.
  3. Build up your support network – By having a strong support network, it will help you stay on track with your dependency. Socialising with family and friends automatically reduces your internet use. You can even join a club, volunteer or start a new sport!

In the end, if you feel that technology and the internet is taking over your life, switch off your phone for a while and go out to enjoy the day! However, make sure not to go into a full digital detox. As Dr. Chaudhary from the Harvard Medical School stated: 

“Stopping altogether may lead to craving its use and not being able to sustain the break, or might keep someone from accessing the beneficial parts of social media, like a way to stay connected and reach out for support.”

However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you feel your dependency is out of control, think about seeking professional help from a therapist. 

Mandy is a Trainee Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with anxiety, victims of domestic violence and eating disorders.

References:

  1. A decade of digital dependency. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/decade-of-digital-dependency
  2. Burch, K. (2020). How to break social media addiction, or spend less time online. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/how-to-break-social-media-addiction