7 signs you’re obsessed with your phone

By Jenn Smith Nelson on September 26, 2014


It was a sad day when I realized my cell phone was interfering with my life. I was so busy efficiently multitasking online I failed to realize how much energy was being spent disconnecting from everything and everyone.

Sure I used it for work but looking back, it enabled me to work all the time. I barely noticed I was living in an anxious, scatterbrained state and only hearing half conversations. My family, however, let me know they were discontent – more than once.

Taking a good, hard look at my habits made for an irrefutable discovery, one which I could no longer deny: I was having a subconscious love affair with my phone.

Sound familiar? Here are seven telltale signs that you might have a phone obsession, like I did.

  • You check in constantly. There’s a term for this – FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Instant access to and response from people have become the norm. In fact, when you don’t hear the familiar text ding back from your BFF after a minute or two, you wonder if you’ve offended her.
    There’s another reason we check constantly: because sometimes we are rewarded with a response. This theory was widely proven by the father of behavioural psychology, B.F. Skinner. He found that people will repeat the same patterns if there is a possibility of a reward (unlike the rats he tested, who stopped searching for the hidden cheese once they realized it was gone).
  • You connect anywhere and everywhere, even while in a vehicle. You logically think that while you’re a passenger, it’s a great time to play catch up. Your partner however is noticeably resentful about being ignored and feeling like a taxi service.
  • People have told you more than three times you spend too much time on your phone. If other people express concern, then it’s probably true.
  • Your kids cannot peel their eyes away from their iPads, iPods, etc. Remember they are completely impressionable. You are teaching them what is normal. If you don’t want to raise zombies, it’s time to model new habits.
  • You text a family member from another room in your house. This is pure laziness. A real no-no.
  • You bring your phone to bed. Catching up online or texting when you should be decompressing and taking notice of the person next to you is likely causing you (unsurprisingly) restless sleep. Your bed is meant for two things and this isn’t one of them.
  • You accidentally leave your phone somewhere. Then fall apart. You suddenly feel lost. You NEED it, you WANT it. All you can think about is how long the next few hours will be until it’s back in your hands. I think we can agree – separation anxiety from a phone is silly.

5 steps for DIY detox

It can be hard to admit your phone habits are problematic. But if the aforementioned signs hit home, consider taking these steps. It’s time to get well.

  • Take a weekend off every so often. Commit to time offline. You may even inspire others to follow suit After a day of intense itching to cheat, your urges subside and relaxation sets in.
  • Be reasonable. Check in less often. Just like dirty laundry, social media will still be there when you return.
  • Work on having actual conversations with people around you. Take time to talk to your friends and family without interruption. After all, who is more important than the person in front of you?
  • Put your phone away in the car. Leave the ringer on in case of an emergency but stash it away. Playing catch up with your family is a rarity these days so take advantage of this time together. Plus, it’s safer.
  • Use your alarm clock instead of the phone alarm. Sure your fancy ring tone may be missed but your sleep will improve. Need another reason? Recent studies show people who check bedside phones in the morning are less productive!

The results

You may notice your creativity returns, focus is no longer an issue and it’s easier to relax. More important, you’ll find being present produces greater connection and more meaningful conversations. Your spouse will love the newfound attentiveness and you will notice your children’s repeated demands may even decrease to one time requests – thanks to your quick in-the-moment responses.


Jenn Smith Nelson is a freelance writer who no longer sleeps with her iPhone.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2014.

By Jenn Smith Nelson| September 26, 2014

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