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YOUR MOST INSIDIOUS ENEMY- is your smartphone undermining you?

“Addictive, damaging, distracting and a health hazard.” These are just a few of the growing criticisms of what is probably your favourite or most used device.

If you’ve never been physically far from your smartphone, none of this will cut much ice. You know what you’re doing and are its master, not its servant, right?

Ok then, what happens when someone like a teacher, a parent, a trainer, or a boss insists you put your digital fix beyond reach for the time being? Does your heart sink? Are you flooded with panic, even despair? Do you feel that your human rights are being abused? Can you hardly wait to get the thing back again?

You’re potentially risking your success at work without perhaps even realising it. You could be addicted to that device; check out the three C’s:

  • Control: using your phone in a way others consider out of control or more than intended.

  • Compulsion: being preoccupied with your device--using it without a conscious decision.

  • Consequences: using your smartphone despite harmful social, physical, and mental effects.

Excessive phone use may even trigger ‘Nomophobia’, fear of being without a mobile device or beyond mobile phone contact. Many rehabilitation centres regularly deal with this mental, social, and physical condition.

The constant use of smartphones can harm your productivity and success at work. One reason is the failure to multitask.

Brain research confirms that multitasking’s a myth. You believe that you can handle several things at once. But at any one moment, where is your attention? It’s on one thing before switching attention to the next.

People walk, talk, and cross the road simultaneously, except that their attention at any one moment is on just one of these. It's why street accidents occur. Losing focus on personal safety can mean being hit by a car.

At work, you don’t usually get hit by a car. Instead, the “car” may be your smartphone. It causes you to miss checking your e-mail, make stupid mistakes, or become less productive.

That constant stream of notifications and alerts from your smartphone can disrupt workflow. They make it difficult to concentrate. An insatiable urge to have yet one more look at the device can damage mental health, even causing anxiety and depression.

“How much more evidence do we need that smartphones are the nicotine of our age? asks one enraged observer accusing smartphones of “destroying our kids and should be banned.”

About everybody under 30 seems to have a smartphone, with just over 90% of children and adults owning one in 2015. This creates the illusion that “if they’re all doing it, it can’t be that harmful.”

Yet the hard evidence suggests otherwise. Excessive smartphone use can lead you into negative cognitive and emotional states.

Smartphones make people more socially disruptive, rational & introverted. They create a world filled with self-centred phrases, like ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, and ‘myself’.

Mainly due to the smartphone and its insidious software, people generally now have fewer conversations with people face-to-face. Many

prefer staring at their mobile screen rather than talking to each other. At work, that can be a sure recipe for failure.

Your phone creates a "social media rabbit hole." Bite-sized content that makes it easy to consume several videos or posts in a row quickly. They also often automatically suggest similar content. Many even start playing similar videos, reducing the potential for interruptions. While presenting you with engaging content, its accessibility makes it hard to break free from the rabbit hole and get back to whatever you were working on.

So, what exactly am I proposing? Certainly, not dumping your device in the recycle bin. Instead, start with some experiments to learn the truth. Exactly how addicted are you? Turn off your phone for increasing periods of 10, 20, 50, and 120 minutes. Each time note down (not on your phone!) the following:

  • What feelings do I have when my smartphone phone's off?

  • Rate the strength of each feeling from 1=low to 10 being high

Success at work depends heavily on your relationships which the smartphone can damage, often without you realising it. So, assessing “how addicted am I to my phone" or "Is my phone my enemy" could be a sensible part of your success strategy.

Further reading:

Allison Pearson, Highly addictive smart phones - Daily Telegraph, 14th December 2022

K. Woolley et al, The Psychology of Your Scrolling Addiction, by HBR, 2022,

A. Sneed, I’m Addicted to My Phone. How Can I Cut Back? New York Times, Feb. 9, 2022

(The article requires a subscription to read.)


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