'I'm supposed to have self-control sorted'. My phone addiction is impacting my friendships.

Last night I confirmed that scrolling on your phone while toasting pine nuts is a bad idea. Pine nuts are delicious but needy; they burn if you don't pay attention and move them around the frying pan. But I didn't pay attention; I checked my phone and forgot my nut responsibilities. No one called; there was no message or pressing job to do. I saw my phone on the kitchen bench and automatically picked it up. I scrolled until a smoky, bitter aroma snapped me out of my phone trance. As I looked at my sad charred nuts, it was clear I had a phone problem, and I'd ruined the avocado and pine nut salad.

I had sacrificed my pine nuts to read about shoppers loving a Kmart dupe of a Hollywood-style mirror. I don't need a new mirror; I don't even have room for one in my house. On top of that, my make-up routine is too simple to require Hollywood illumination, and I have no interest in seeing my pores that well-lit. But I read the article, anyway. I'm like a small child who can't resist the lolly on the bench in front of them, except I'm not a child. I'm a dead-set grown-up who's supposed to have self-control sorted out by now.

Watch: A scientifically proven method to stop you spending your life on your smart phone. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

My bad phone habits aren't limited to my kitchen. Last weekend I invited friends to a picnic in a city park. We set up chequered picnic rugs on the grass near rows of cheerful sunflowers. Sitting in the fading light with people I love gave me that "this is what life is all about" feeling. A good friend I hadn't seen in six months sat beside me. We caught up on family news and how she was coping with studying and working full time. As she shared from the heart, I reached into my pants pocket, pulled out my phone and checked a news website. I didn't realise I was doing it until my friend, who knows me well enough to pen a Prince Harry style exposé, paused and looked at me with her chocolate brown eyes. Her eyes said, "Put your f**king phone away", so I did.

Checking my phone while talking with my friend was like scratching an itch. I love my friend and enjoy her company. At the picnic, I felt immersed in what she was saying right up until my brain sent the automatic message, "You should check your phone." It's a message driven by impulse, reflex and habit, and it ruined our picnic moment.

Afterwards, my friend was less animated and open; I'd annoyed her, and I get it. It was a thirty-second lapse, but I may as well have said, "I'm not interested in what you're sharing; you're boring and unimportant." It's not how I felt, I adore this woman, but it's what I projected, and I regret it. 

My poor digital habits don't line up with the rest of me. "Diligent and conscientious." That's what my report cards said when I was a kid. I was the responsible big sister, the helper, and the high achiever. My sensible nature followed me into adulthood. My dentist tells me my dental hygiene is excellent. My house plants are all alive except the blue star fern I had in the bathroom. To be fair, my dog ate the fern when I left the plant outside to get some morning sunlight. My sensible inner-self cringes every time I consume digital junk. But that uncomfortable feeling isn't enough to stop me from clicking and scrolling.


I feel like the doctor who chain smokes—I know it's terrible for me, but I can't quit. And that's the parallel; just like a cigarette isn't a benign indulgence, social media and apps aren't neutral technology.

A team of real-life humans sits on the other side of our phone screens. Tech companies employ professionals like engineers, analysts, designers, psychologists, programmers, and marketers. A central part of their job is to engage us, coax us and monetise our attention. My diligent insides might crave being effective and focused, but my brain also adores the chemicals social media and apps stir in my body. It helps when I remember app and tech platform makers design their products to influence our behaviour. My bad phone habits feel less like a dire personal failing and more like something I can work on.

I know I have an unhealthy phone habit compounded by clever tech design. I also know I need to sort it out quickly. Tech innovation is racing towards us each day, and with it comes more opportunity to develop poor digital habits. I love the tech in my pocket, but I'm still responsible for tech use and my pine nuts.

Feature Image: Getty.

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