• Patrick McAndrew

Anxiety. Anxiety. Text. Good. Okay? Anxiety.

Last year ABC News put out a news story about how excessive cell phone use may cause anxiety.  Dr. Nancy Cheever, a professor who researches cell phone use and anxiety states, “The more people use their phone, the more anxious they are about using their phone.”

Apparently, our phones keep us in a “persistent state of anxiety,” the only relief being looking at our phones.  This is not unlike drug or alcohol addictions in which abusers will continue to use the drugs when they hit their “low points.”

Research has shown, however, that excessive technology use, though sharing similarities to drug addiction, is quite a different scenario as it is behavioral.  Many of us can’t stop looking at our phones and our stress levels rise when our phone is not next to us.  Nancy Colier, author of The Power of Off, states that the way we are living with our excessive dependence on our devices is not serving our deeper well-being.

I believe that intuitively we know this is an issue, but we can’t seem to shake it.  We recognize how reliant we are on our devices, and yet we rarely do anything about it.  We still pull out our phones when talking to a friend.  Smartphones are still out on tables during meetings or out on the dinner table.  And many of us still text and drive despite the crazy danger that’s involved in doing that.

Why can’t we wait to respond to a text message or check a notification?  It’s because our anxiety is in control.  We are sacrificing ourselves to our phones.  Our phones are dictating how we behave and how we interact with one another.  It’s also hurting our health all the same.  All the while, it’s going so easily undetected.

I do find it interesting that some people regulate their phone usage better than others.  It’s purely habit.  While there are those who never have a phone out at social gatherings and enjoy spending time with whoever is in the room, there are those who have their phones out at all hours of the evening.  I often wonder if those people realize the effect that they are having on those around them.  But, be wary about pointing it out, because we tend to get very defensive if accused of being on our phone too much.

I remember talking to a group of friends one day about throwing a 90s party.  “It will be great,” spoke a young, enthused, Patrick.  “We can wear classic 90s garb, listening to amazing 90s tunes, dance the macarena…” Patrick, sir, why you are quite the party-throwing hooligan!  This sounds like a throwback I want to be a part of! “…and we can’t have smartphones because there were no smartphones in the 90s!”

Crickets.  Silence.  And as if the air was let out of a balloon, I saw my “neat” idea swirl around into nothingness.  At the mention of “no smartphones,” no one wanted in.  No one was interested in a night of tomfoolery unless they could have their adult pacifier on them.  “We can just keep our phones in the car,” Patrick said convincingly.  But nope.  The idea was gone.  Many wouldn’t be interested in a themed party with some friends if they couldn’t stay connected to the online world at the same time.

This is concerning.  We are beginning to get to a place where we want to engage with one another, but we still must keep one toe in the online pool.  We don’t want to miss out, even though the online world isn’t going anywhere.  It’s the habit of keeping one toe in however that creates our anxious behavior.  If we aren’t connected, we worry about functioning in a disconnected world.  Though, I would argue, we are most connected when we are disconnected.

What are your thoughts?  Do you feel anxious when your phone isn’t nearby?  Do you feel you need to have your phone on you at all times?  Comment below!


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