Digital Addiction: How to put the phone down

Digital Addiction: How to put the phone down
Amber Martin, A-State Counselor
Amber Martin, A-State Counselor

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It wakes you up, keeps you connected, and always entertained.

"I'm on it like 24-7," Jacob White said.

"I use it constantly," said Jordan Mays.

White and Mays are just like the rest of us, they are addicted to their cell phones.

"Like my lifeline pretty much," White said.

Our hand-held device is always on our minds, but is our need to be face-to-screen rather than face-to-face causing more harm than good?

Amber Martin, licensed counselor at Arkansas State University, said it could be.

"I see a lot of people unable to have a true conversation," Martin said.

She sees firsthand how words on a screen make a big impact.

"Believe it or not, I have students who've said he responded back to me, but there were only 2 explanation marks," Martin said. "There wasn't 5, you know, and they read so much into that. It's a serious thing."

It did not take long to find people on their phones at A-State or at a local restaurant.

In fact, there may be only one time of day when we are truly disconnected.

"When I sleep and even then I still hear the ding," Andrew Spillman said.

Because of that ding, Spillman wishes he were born in a different time.

"I hate people being able to get a hold of me at any point in time," Spillman said. "I'd much rather go back to just the rotary phone."

Martin said there is a fine line when it comes to being addicted because cell phones provide so much help in our lives.

"I don't think it's necessarily the cell phones that are bad," Martin said. "I think it's when we start abusing them is when they become bad."

After 10 years at the A-State Counseling Center, Martin said she's seen a change in the way cell phones are used.

"I would say 99.9% of the problem is lack of communication, just effective communication," Martin said.

She mentioned a growing problem is our willingness to hide behind the phone during life's big moments.

"Snap moments and capture moments, but with that we really narrow in our focus and we miss out on so many other things that are going on." Martin said.

Through Jordan Mays' travels, thanks to ROTC and other events, he has learned Americans are much worse than other families overseas.

"They weren't on their cell phones at all," Mays said. "As a matter of fact, you didn't hardly see cell phones in the home or things like that."

At Newk's in Jonesboro, Region 8 News ventured out to see how many restaurant diners had their faces in their phones rather than carrying on conversations during lunch.

Surprisingly, we found Chris Robinson who made it his mission not to pick up his phone.

"I was having a conversation here, and I didn't feel like it was the right thing to do to answer it," Robinson said.

But that does not mean he is always so polite.

"I catch myself every once in a while saying I've got to put my phone away to spend time with my family, with conversations," Robinson said.

Martin said that is the first step.

"Being aware, ok when am I using my phone," Martin said. "Is it getting in the way of things, and if so starting to set limits."

Those limits may seem foreign to most.

"Set firm rules," Martin said. "When you're at the dinner table, cell phones are not in the same room. When we are driving, cell phones are in our bag or our purse or somewhere we can't see them, when we are with our kids."

Martin said if those seem impossible, start slowly. Give yourself time limits such as not picking up your phone for 15 minutes. Then steadily add time to disconnect as you meet your goal.

So is digital addiction truly an addiction or simply a habit?

Martin said the verdict is still in the air as counselors and psychologists study the facts.

While most admit they wished people put their phones down more often, everyone agreed as phones continue to do more and more for our daily lives the less likely we are to put them down.

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