SPECIAL REPORT: Addictions to Cell Phones and Social Media and How to Break Them

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 Every year, 2.2 trillion text messages are sent by cell phone customers in the United States. People take their cell phones everywhere, to work, school, on errands, to bed, and even to the bathroom. But what qualifies as addiction?

“People would probably say I am addicted to my cell phone, I don’t feel like I use it any more than any of my other peers, but I’m sure it probably qualifies as an addiction,” said Jennifer Rohrig, a self-proclaimed cell phone over-user.

Most Americans own a cell phone, and a good percentage of those users have smart phones. With access to friends, family members, phone numbers, information and social media accounts, it’s hard not to become addicted. 

Just last week, Dr. John McFadden was out to dinner, he said he was seated next to a table of six men, five of them were on their phones. “But they weren’t communicating with each other,” he said.

Dr. McFadden, who works in the Department of Family Medicine at Wheeling Hospital, said social media addiction sets in any time someone is not able to fulfill the basic requirements of life. The problem is known as disordered social media use, and it affects about ten percent of social media users, according to a study done by the University of Albany. 

“When I can’t sleep the first thing I do is grab my cell phone and play a game, or look on Facebook,”Jennifer said.  “And like you said, it’s 3:00 in the morning, and no information is new, but I still find myself looking at it to see if I am missing anything.”

What’s even more disturbing is that according to a Harvard study, if people are addicted to social media, they could be at risk for other addictions, such as substance abuse.

Dr. McFadden said cell phone and social media usage has definitely disordered “normal” social interaction. 

Jennifer recalls instances with her husband. “We’ll have conversations and he’ll say stuff to me and I won’t remember it, and then a couple weeks later, he’ll be like ‘Hey do you remember this?’ And I’m like ‘No,’ and he’ll be like, ‘Well, you answered me,’ and I’ll realize it was because I was on my phone.”

Dr. McFadden said there are several ways you can cut down on your cell phone and social media use. The first thing, he said, is to admit you have a problem.  “Denial is a major problem of people with addictive behavior.”

Secondly, he said to structure things in a way so that your major responsibilities are fulfilled before logging on, then figure out how much time you actually want to commit to the device.

Finally, he said to take a look at why you signed up for social media in the first place, look at your number of “friends” and pare down the ones that are not as important. 

Constant usage and addiction can affect you mentally and physically, and headaches are the most common condition of overuse of cell phones or other mobile devices.

If you feel like you have a problem, contact your doctor about developing a plan that will work for you to break the addiction.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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