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Is it ruining your relationship?

In the 21st century, the smartphone is everyones musthave accessory. But Sophie Sinclair asks, are we letting them take control of our lives?


arolynn lived for her phone. It was the first thing she reached for in the mornings and the last thing she saw before bed. I couldnt go anywhere without it, says Carolynn, 27. I would panic if I left it behind or couldnt find it. Sound familiar? Because shes not alone. One in 10 people suffer from smartphone addiction, with 54% of the UK population having nomophobia, the fear of being without a phone, according to OnePoll. Last August, American actress Charlene deGuzman uploaded her video I Forgot My Phone onto YouTube. It went viral, raking up over 20 million views, and although it aimed to make people reflect on their smartphone usage, Charlene, 30, admits that when it


comes to her phone habits, shes not perfect. addiction. Pamela Roberts, a therapist at I hate my addiction to my phone. Its better Addiction Care, one of the few centres in the now, but my friends used to call me out on UK which treats Internet and Smartphone it, she says. Its just too easy to get lost in addiction, explains how its very easy for it. Ive missed a lot of valuable time with habits to quickly form. People originally family during the holidays do these things to feel because were all looking at good. However, there My iPhone was our phones. I hate it and Im comes a time when that always mindfully trying to can become compulsive, the reason behind abstain. she says. A line is crossed many arguments She never expected the and the behaviour is no with my husband video to receive the response longer to feel good, but it did, and confesses how she necessary. People cant had one friend in mind when control their usage and making it. Shes on her phone constantly, there is the compulsion to use more. The says Charlene. She checks her Instagram cycle of addiction then kicks in, causing while were watching a live show, and when consequences on both health and working shes at a red light while driving. It breaks life. my heart. Youre missing out on lifes greatest So while Carolynn used to turn to moments, like the taste of food, or the colour her iPhone when she was bored, it soon of the sky, or someones face. became a necessary part of her routine. I But Charlene isnt the only one trying became obsessed with updating Twitter and to make people aware of their unhealthy Instagram, and became very competitive attachments to their smartphones. A in my game scores. I would get really upset campaign called Social Rehab was designed when I couldnt beat a level. And she got to help people connect with life outside their so addicted, that she soon viewed it as an phones, with Scarlett, 24 from London, extension of herself. I began to see a lot of being one of the founders of this successful personal identity in my phone. It made me project. I get so angry whenever somebody feel as if I was someone, something which ignore me for their smartphone, she says. I annoys me now. was in a meeting with a team member who Sam, 31, who works in human resources, was looking through his Twitter feed and is also addicted and realised the extent of it he kept asking me to repeat when she was on maternity leave. Being myself. I just thought, why am away from work meant I I bothering to waste my time? was constantly checking my Yet situations like these are phone to make sure I wasnt happening far too often these missing out on anything, but days. Its a growing problem it soon became a routine, that nobody has addressed yet. admits the mother of twins. There has been no social rules In fact, a 2013 survey by constructed when it comes to O2 found that women spend these new technologies, says more time on their phones Scarlett. And we decided it than with their partners, was a global conversation we so its hardly surprising needed to kick start. that Carolynn and Sams smartphone addictions were Route to addiction affecting their marriages. But while its easy to say that My iPhone was the reason your smartphone is making behind many arguments with you constantly miss out on my husband, admits Carolynn. valuable moments, many We began drifting apart fail to understand the and werent communicating. Charlene deGuzmans video seriousness of it as an I was ignoring him and I has had over 20 million views


didnt realise how not giving him my full attention by using my phone during dinner was hurting his feelings. So what motivated Carolynn to make a change? I remember waking up one morning to find my husband hid my phone, she says. It started a huge argument between us, but it was what I needed to realise that I was spending far too much time being controlled by this device. Sam was the same. I wouldnt concentrate in conversations because of my phone. It was affecting my personal life. Many times, my husband would ask me to do something and 30 minutes later I would still be on my phone, she says. It took me a while before I realised how rude I was acting. From spending over six hours a day on her phone, Carolynn installed an app, allowing her to only access the device daily for one hour. It was terrible at first. I found myself getting really frustrated and wondering how I managed before. But I slowly adjusted and began getting things done, that I soon forgot about my phone, explains Carolynn. I now spend more time with my husband and our relationship has flourished. We leave our phones in the car on dates and we dont bring them to bed. But smartphone addiction doesnt just affect relationships. Psychologist Professor Phil Reed recently conducted an experiment at Swansea University with 60 volunteers, analysing the negative psychological

The average smartphone addict checks their device every 6 minutes We look at our phones approximately 150 times a day 80% of people check their phone within the first 15 minutes of waking up 7 in 10 people keep their smartphone within 5 feet of them most of the time 20% of people aged 18-34 have admitted to texting during sex 48% of women would rather give up sex for a month than their phone 84% of people admit they couldnt go a day without their phone 75% of people feel panicked without their phone 81% of people never switch their smartphone off Approximately 23 years of our lives are spent in front of a screen

their drinks. People seemed to cope quite well, explains Scarlett. We handed out toolkits and drinks discounts, but in a way that kept people interacting, so it made them realise it could be done.

A new age of rudeness?

Carolynn has since cut down on her smartphone usage impacts of Internet use. The results showed that the withdrawal symptoms were similar to what drug users experience. People with high usage levels can sometimes experience increased negative mood swings and anxiety when disconnected from their devices, explains Professor Reed. Smartphone addiction can make users depressed and lonely, as well as impulsive and aggressive. And Pamela believes its an understated addiction which needs more awareness. The number of people requiring help with smartphone addiction is increasing. While its most prevalent as a primary addiction among young people, weve also seen it manifest as a secondary addiction, so as a substitute for previous habits. Looking back, Carolynn now regrets spending so much time on her phone. It didnt make me a better person. My work and home productivity vanished and was replaced with iPhone time. But she understands the appeal of smartphones. Everyone wants to be someone. And they want the whole world to see them doing it, to affirm them. When it comes down to it
th Social Rehab Scarlett (right) wi rah and Rhys team members Sa

though, who cares what the sandwich you just ate looks like? Will your grandchildren look up your old Instagram feed? Or will they remember you from your kindness? Sam agrees and is worried about how smartphones will affect her kids in the future. People need to realise what is happening in reality. My twins constantly watch me and want my phone, I need to be aware of this, she says. Spending five hours a day or more on a smartphone is considered addictive, but according to Professor Reed, its only a problem if the person views it as a problem. If the usage is interfering with other things that you want to do, then its too much. And Pamela agrees, Its not about quantity but consequences. Everyone is different. Some people can go through periods of over use and then stop without any problem, but may return to that addictive behaviour at different times, mainly when stressed. So could you go smartphone free? Well for part of Scarletts Social Rehab campaign, 300 people in technology-obsessed Singapore did. A sold out event was held, where participants locked away their phones for a night. The longer they remained without them, the more money they got off

The word phubbing has recently been coined to relate to those who ignore others by using their phone, and Professor Reed believes this is a symptom of addiction. It also highlights poor social skills, yet most people probably dont realise theyre doing it. As well as this, another one of Scarletts pet peeves is people using their phones at concerts. I spent hundreds of pounds to see the Arctic Monkeys recently and I was forced to watch the whole gig through peoples phones in front of me. I just think, why are you not absorbing such a thing with your own eyes? And Charlene agrees, Theyre ruining the experience for the rest of us with their glaring screen. Not to mention complete disrespect for the artist performing. Scarlett also hates the way smartphones have affected human interaction. I have a very healthy relationship with my phone. I always keep it on silent and when Im out with friends its in my bag. But thats where some people go wrong. Its attached to their hands, taken priority over real life conversations and interrupting their lives, she says. Think how that message will still be there when you get home. That way, when out with friends you can be 100% there, and not try to exist both there and online at the same time. And Professor Reed reminds us, Remember everything worthwhile you can do on a smartphone, you can do in real life.

SIGNS ITS TIME FOR A CHANGE Is your usage increasing? Is it affecting your
relationships and work?

HOW TO MAKE THAT CHANGE List the activities your

phone stops you doing

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP Addiction Care, in Surrey

offer help with smartphone and Internet addictions. For full details visit

Think about why you use

your phone and swap for activities with same results

Do you prefer using

your phone rather than engaging face to face?

Do you feel anxious when

not connected?

Limit your phone usage Leave your phone in your

bag when socialising

The NHS Tavistock and

Portman Clinic in London has a unit specialising in technology addictions.