• Sarah Connell

Put Them Away!

Is your Smartphone taking over your life?

Smartphones have become a prominent part of life. According to recent research, the average smartphone user taps, clicks, or swipes their device 2617 times a day. I just about remember how life was before I had a phone, but now I feel anxious when I realize I’ve left the house without it. People are becoming more aware of the amount of time they spend on their devices. The new screen time trackers on smartphones make it hard to avoid and I am pretty shocked when I see my statistics some days.

Our devices help us to feel connected to the world, our friends, work colleagues etc. We can see the news 24/7 and keep up to date with interests. We can find out almost anything.

Smartphones and other mobile devices do undoubtedly have many benefits, but we are becoming very aware of their dark side.

Are you addicted to your smartphone? Nomophobia, a fear of not being with our phones, is on the increase and is causing more and more negative psychological effects. Stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and sleep deprivation are just some of the problems people report.

We all love receiving compliments and positive affirmations from others. A desire to belong and feel accepted and valued underlies a lot of our behavior. The feel good hormones (oxytocin and dopamine) released when we get any likes, shares or follows on social media contribute hugely to our behavior and our relationship with our smartphone. We can become obsessive, continually checking for updates or replies, feeling great if we get them and terrible if we don’t.

Our strong desire for more positive feedback, to stay connected to people and our efforts to ensure we don't miss anything can cause obsessive irrational behavior where we are always on high alert. We constantly check notifications and can’t have a conversation with someone without looking at our phone or messages.

This detachment from reality, where we stop engaging fully socially, don't fully live in or experience events, and miss what’s happening right now can have a detrimental effect on relationships and our mental health.Paying attention to lots of information simultaneously at a superficial level has been termed Continuous partial attention (CPA). Attachment to our devices causes us to give only part of our attention to others when we are with them.

Most of us will understand the sense of rejection when a partner, loved one or friend responds to their phone before us. Most of us are guilty of prioritizing our smartphones e.g. looking at our phone before we say good morning to family.

I often feel guilty when checking my smartphone around the kids and can see the negative impact it has on their behavior when they spend just 15 minutes on their ipad. I know its time to put my phone away when my little boy asks to ‘see cars mammy’s phone’. My heart sinks when I catch myself and realize I should be with them, not with my phone. When we’re distracted by our phones, we miss some really special moments, ones we will never get back again.

Increased personal detachment and less face-to-face contact can lead to more anxiety. It takes away feelings of closeness and being connected to the person we’re with, it takes away feelings of intimacy.

So what can we do to stop smartphone taking over our relationships?

Digital detox

This can take many forms, for example agreeing that you won’t have phones in the bedroom, or when eating meals. You can help break the habit with a ‘phone jail’, where you can lock your phones away.

Try using a real alarm clock so that you can’t use that as an excuse for having your phone by your side in bed.

Get into the flow

Invest your time and energy in doing things you love, without your devices. Prove to yourself that you don’t need your phone with you everywhere you go. Breaking the habit will require strong willpower, but you can do it. Spending real time with people will give you a greater sense of connectedness and belonging.


Value yourself, your life and your time enough to focus your attention on things that really matter in life. Engage in meditation to help take your mind off your phone and focus on the things that matter, including spending quality time with your family.

Set Targets

If you notice you are checking your smartphone a lot, set targets to wean yourself off the phone. For example leave your phone out of sight and do not look at it for an hour. Keep increasing the time so that you check it less and less frequently through the day.


‘there's not much time,

With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;

Music to hear, and books to read;

Friends to cherish, and life to lead’

The world’s out there,

With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,

A flutter of snow, a shower of rain

This day will never come around again

Milligan, 1998

Now get off your phone!

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