How to Deal with the Withdrawal Symptoms of Device Addiction

Just like any addiction, quitting your device addiction can cause some withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness.

These symptoms are expected go away after a week or two. There is always the risk of not making through those first few weeks and sliding back to old habits. In order to avoid that, we need to prepare for the experience and know how to deal with the restlessness.

There are three questions you can ask to yourself to prepare for quitting your device and Internet addiction.

  1. What is your motivation to quit your smartphone addiction?
  2. What is your current device and discretionary Internet usage?
  3. What is your target device and Internet usage?

You can find more details about the questions above and my answers to them in yesterday’s post. Let’s see how we can deal with the restlessness that ensues after quitting our device addiction.

Relax

This is easier said than done, but some simple relaxation techniques can help you go through the restless moments within the first few weeks of quitting your device addiction.

  • Take a few deep breaths and count to ten.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Stand up and move around.

These are some very simple actions yet very effective. The trick is to remind them to yourself whenever you feel like checking your device.

Question Your Motives

Whenever you feel like checking your device or Internet, ask yourself coaching questions like the following.

  • Why do I have the urge to check my device now?
  • What is the chance of receiving an urgent message that requires me to check my device every six and a halve minutes?
  • What is the use of checking my device right now? What is the added value?

You can use the 5 Why’s technique to go several levels deeper.

  • Why do I have the urge to check my device now?
    • Because I’m bored.
  • Why do I feel bored?
    • Because sometimes my job isn’t exciting enough.
  • Why is my job not exciting enough sometimes?
    • Because sometimes we have to test everything through before a release.
  • Why is testing not exciting enough?
    • Because it consists of very simple, mundane activities.
  • Why does testing consist of very simple, mundane activities?
    • Because we have to simulate the usage patterns of end users.

In the example above, we have found that simulating the usage patterns of end users is a boring activity for a developer, which causes them to check their device often. How can we solve this problem?

  • Automate the process. Find a tool that simulates the usage patterns of end users automatically and checks if there are any errors encountered.
  • Hire a tester.
  • Gamify the process by introducing a competition among the developers to find the most bugs vs introducing least amount of bugs.

As you see, your device addiction might be just the tip of the iceberg. It might point to a deeper problem that you have to face solve separately. By quitting your device addiction, you are giving yourself the opportunity to face those problems. By using the 5 why’s technique above, you can find and address the root cause of your device addiction and look for solutions to fundamental problems of your life.

Get Into Your Stretch Zone

Let’s face it, device addiction is most of the time a reaction to stress. Stress has two main causes. You are either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. You are either bored or panicked. There is a sweet spot between your boredom zone and panic zone. That sweet spot is called your stretch zone.

Your stretch zone is slightly outside of your comfort zone. It stimulates personal growth by challenging your abilities slightly, but not so much as to overwhelm you. It’s human nature to avoid anything outside of our comfort zone.

We need to make the conscious choice to get outside of our comfort zone, over and over. That is the secret to happiness.

Accept the Reality

Sometimes, our daily lives are mundane and boring. Every job has its routine tasks and dull moments. Most of the 21st century jobs involve tasks that require sitting in front of a computer and thinking about hard, intellectual problems.

Not all of us have the chance of being a professional athlete, a rock star, or a secret agent for an intelligence agency. It’s a good idea to do whatever we can to make our jobs exciting and challenging, but at the same time, we have to accept the fact that every life has its mundane and dull moments.

The question is how do we deal with the mundane and dull moments of our lives? Do we escape to our device or to Internet in every opportunity? If so, we are missing a huge opportunity. Those dull moments can be a huge opportunity to process all the information we collect throughout the day and to reflect on our life.

We have to embrace doing nothing and be comfortable with it. It has its benefits.

Be Aware of Our Delusions

Our mind is mostly irrational and delusional. It requires conscious effort to become aware of our delusions. It requires even more effort to override those delusions.

All of our behavior is motivated by the pain and pleasure principle. We try to escape pain and move towards pleasure. Our mind registers sitting in front of a computer and thinking about a challenging problem as pain, in other words as punishment. It registers looking at a smartphone as pleasure, in other words as a reward. If you look at this mechanism, it is delusional. It is the complete opposite of reality.

Sitting in front of a computer, solving challenging problems usually results in rewards, while checking your smartphone all the time may eventually result in pain. We have to become aware of our mind registering the reality in the complete opposite way. That requires the skill of discerning the truth from falsehood even if it stems from our own mind.

Repetition

We might get a principle at an intellectual level. We might get that checking our smartphone 150 times a day hurts our cognitive abilities, our job performance, and our overall quality of our lives. However, we might still do it. How can we motivate ourselves to do the thing that we know we should do?

Becoming aware of our own incompetency is the second level of learning. On this level, we want to get to the third level as soon as possible. The third level of learning is conscious competency. On this level, we are making conscious effort to not give in to our device addiction.

One way of staying in the conscious competency level is to remind ourselves repeatedly about our goal of quitting our device addiction. We can do that by writing our motivation and advantages on an index card. We can write down the disadvantages and harms of the device addiction on the back side of the index card.

Now, all we have to do is to keep our index card handy and read it whenever we feel like checking our smartphone. As we keep reading our index card, the information on the index card will be reinforced in our mind. This is how to update our mental programming and create our own matrix.

Once the information is reinforced in our mind, we have reached the unconscious competence level. We don’t even need to make conscious effort to remind ourselves about the harms of device addiction. It overrides our urges on autopilot, without our conscious effort.

Accountability Partner

A great way to stick with your decisions is to have an accountability partner and to report to them your progress. No one wants to promise something to someone and not live up to their promise. That is embarrassing. So, in order to increase your chances in this challenge, find an accountability partner, explain them your plan, and promise to report them your results, every week or month.

I have started this challenge yesterday. I will report my success on meeting the goals that I have explained above and what the impact on my mind and my life was after I complete the thirty day challenge. That will be March 2, 2018.

Conclusion

There has been a lot of information in today’s and yesterday’s post about quitting your device addiction. It’s not enough to go over them once and dive into the experience. I suggest that you bookmark both posts and go through them in a weekend.

Do the necessary preparation outlined in both posts and give yourself thirty days to experiment with a life that doesn’t involve checking your device every six and a half minutes. Let me know how it works for you and contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Come back after your thirty day challenge and let us know how it went!

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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