Killing a cellphone addiction

  • September 5, 2008

Addiction comes in all forms: addiction to drugs and alcohol, to chocolate, and yes, even cellphones.

I wanted to think that I’m not addicted to my cellphone, so I took a quick look at my trusty Oxford dictionary hoping that my frequent use somehow fell short of the qualifications. No such luck.

“Addicted: doing or using something as a compulsive habit.” It’s official. I’m a cellphone addict. Really — I don’t just check my cellphone when I’ve been expecting a call. I check it when I’m bored and when I’m busy (although for the record, I usually manage to forget that it exists while I’m at work).

So basically, as soon as I’ve left the office for the day, my cellphone is waiting in ambush, ready to steal my free time. And the worst  part is that I check it even when it hasn’t made the slightest little “blip.”

I got funnelled into my cellphone addiction a few years ago, in my second or third year of university. Tired of missing call-backs from people I needed to interview for my journalism courses, I finally caved in and tapped into my student loans to get a cellphone. The way I always made sure it was in my bag you’d have thought it was made of gold. 

That habit naturally transferred into my personal life, to the point where I found myself scrambling to answer it in circumstances where I could have easily let it go to voicemail (for example, while walking home from the store with my hands full). And the worst part is that it’s so easy to feel normal doing that because so many other people are walking down the street, performing the same kind of juggling act. My compulsion to reach for the phone worsened when I added the e-mail feature. Really, do I have to check my e-mail on the walk to work in the morning? No. But seeing as there is no “Cellphones Anonymous” group to my knowledge, I probably would have eventually started bumping into people on the sidewalk if it wasn’t for one recent forgetful moment.

By divine providence, as I hurried off to Sunday Mass one morning a few weeks ago, I forgot my cellphone behind. The experience was a God-send. I noticed how dependent I had become. Because it was physically far away from me, and I purposely decided not to worry about it, I enjoyed Mass more than I had in a while.

I was able to pay more attention to the homily, and even continued to reflect on the priest’s points as I did my groceries afterwards (still cellphoneless). I felt free from the rest of the world, and a lot closer to God.

As with any addiction, the phone had begun to creep into my personal time with God. Instead of saying a prayer during those extra minutes spent waiting for the bus or the subway, I often would just check my e-mail for the umpteenth time that day. So after my little personal revelation, I decided it was time to establish cellphone breaks.

For example — instead of setting the phone beside me during supper, I put it in my room with the volume off. Instead of taking calls while travelling on  public transportation or while walking down the street, I let it go to voicemail.

Like anything, a cellphone can be a great tool, but it all depends on how you use it.

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