Let's be real with each other: A lot of us have some complicated relationships with our phones. It's not just you, by the way. There are tons of studies about excessively checking your phone that prove we are all a little, teeny tiny bit unhinged with it comes to our attachment to our phones. Way too many people have stories about how they lose their mind when they lose connection with their phone.
Here, I'll go first. Just last night, for example, my iPhone wouldn't work unless I was connected to the internet. So I had my phone, but it was useless while trying to make it home from work. Although I tried to keep my cool, I couldn't push back the increasing stress I felt as I tried, and failed, to send text messages, work emails, and refresh my Instagram feed in the back of a cab. I cursed Apple and my phone provider until a kind customer care employee asked me this morning if I had tried refreshing "my network settings."
Oh. Yup, there it was. Just a little refresh. I felt like a toddler who throws a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store only to be calmed by the offer of a juice box because they didn't know their blood sugar was slow. While trying to make my phone work, I snapped at people who love me, all because they just "couldn't understand" how I felt not being able to check my phone. I needed my emails. I devised an elaborate conspiracy theory about a tech company trying to "get me." I was legit out of my mind without my phone. Luckily, it's not just me.
According to a study done by consulting firm Deloitte, Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times a day — an average 46 times per person. So I'm not alone in my attachment to my phone. But after the traumatic experience of losing cell phone service for 12 whole hours — 12 whole nighttime hours, in which I couldn't solve the problem and needed my social media connection, mind you — I realized I might actually need a cell phone break.
And not just so I don't embarrass myself by snapping at a friend because I couldn't order dinner from the car, but because there are some serious consequences to excessively checking your notifications throughout the day.
Here are three of the big ones.
Your Phone Affects Your Sleep
As if we aren't already exhausted from everything else we do all day, consistently checking your phone, especially at night will totally mess with your sleep. A study done just this spring at the University of California, San Francisco, found that checking one's phone close to bedtime led to people taking longer to fall asleep and impacted the quality of sleep once they did nod off. So it's a double whammy.
When you don't get a good night's sleep, you are less able to focus the next day, dehydrated, and just freaking miserable. It also makes your skin look terrible. There's just nothing more important than your precious snooze time — especially if you're the primary caregiver throughout the day for your kids, or if you have a job that provides for them and your family.
So, for an hour before bedtime, try to resist the temptation to check your timelines.
It Can Increase Your Anxiety
Excessive cell phone use has also been linked to increased anxiety and depression. There are a few ways it can affect your mood — for one, checking the news on Twitter all day or bickering with Facebook friends about politics is no good for you. But it's more than just the social anxiety one gets from social media.
A study at the University of Illinois last year found that people who check their phone a lot tend to be more anxious and depressed, and that the phone checking might be actually be a symptom of that depression. People in the study reported checking their phones when they were feeling down, which led researchers to believe some people might be using these phone checks as a coping mechanism.
So when you're turning to Snapchat instead of indulging in another form of self care, something might be up.
It Also Hurts Your Relationships
As if lack of sleep and being depressed weren't enough, other studies have found that excessively checking your phone hurts your relationships. Maybe because you aren't dealing with your mental health and looking up GIFs instead.
Checking your phone not only means not spending quality time with your family and friends, but a study done in 2016 found that partners reported less satisfied in their relationships when one partner was perceived as more attached to a device than the other. Brandon McDaniel, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University, where the study was done said:
It is often unrealistic to cut out phone use entirely, and it is also unrealistic to simply tell yourself that you will practice self-control and not check your phone. It can also begin to tear relationships apart if we are not careful.
Some coping strategies? Setting a time for everyone to put away their phones every day, or set boundaries with your partner or friends and tell them, for example, that when you take the kids to the park you're not going to have your phone on you. Anything you can do to disconnect for a bit.
We all have varied and complicated relationships with our phones. But these studies all show that we should be more mindful of how and when we check our phones. It won't hurt to just leave them be sometimes.
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