Compulsive [kəm-ˈpəl-siv] adjective: “resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge, especially one that is against one’s conscious wishes.” I’ve recently been thinking about compulsion, especially as it relates to one of the most incredible devices ever made: the smartphone. A little bit of self-analysis shows that the way I use my smartphone borders on compulsion and may, in fact, fully qualify. And from what I’ve observed, I suspect you may receive the same diagnosis. I ask myself all the time: Do I own this phone or does this phone own me? Who is setting the terms of the relationship? Which of us is making the demands and which of us is ceding to them?
A number of years ago, Dr. David Greenfield founded the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and came up with a Smartphone Compulsion Test. He meant for it to draw attention to the way our lives can become dominated by our devices. I have found it both helpful and alarming. I’ve also adapted it a little to speak to the particular concerns of Christians. Why don’t you go through each question, answer yes or no, and keep track of the number of times you answer yes.
- Do you often find yourself spending more time on your smartphone than you realize?
- Do you find yourself spending more time texting, tweeting or emailing as opposed to speaking to people in person?
- When you are bored or have nothing else to do, do you find yourself unconsciously reaching for your smartphone?
- Has the amount of time you spend on your smartphone been increasing?
- Do you wish you could be a little less involved with your smartphone?
- Do you regularly sleep with your smartphone (turned on) under your pillow or next to your bed?
- Do you find yourself viewing and answering texts, tweets and emails at any hour of the day or night—even when it means interrupting other things you are doing?
- Do you text, email, tweet or surf while driving or doing other similar activities that require your focused attention and concentration?
- Do you text, email, tweet or surf while walking?
- Do you feel your use of your smartphone decreases your productivity at times?
- Do notifications from your smartphone sometimes interrupt your attention during personal devotions, family devotions, or church services?
- Do you feel uncomfortable when you accidentally leave your smartphone in the car or at home, have no service, or have a broken phone?
- Do you use your smartphone while eating meals with others?
- When your smartphone rings, beeps or buzzes, do you feel an intense urge to immediately respond to the notification (to check for texts, tweets, emails, updates, etc.)?
- Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your cell or smartphone many times a day, even when you know there is likely nothing new or important to see?
According to Dr. Greenfield, the scoring system goes something like this: If you score 1-2, you’re probably doing just fine (but you probably also don’t actually own a smartphone). If you score 3-4, you are leaning toward compulsive or problematic behavior, and if you score 5 or above, that becomes almost certain. If you score 8 or higher, you probably have a pretty significant compulsive attachment to your phone. And my guess is at least half the people who honestly answer these questions fall into that camp.
So what do we do about it? That’s a topic for another day. But at the very least, take the test and prayerfully reflect on the results, then perhaps simply ask yourself this: Are you okay with this? Is this what you want from your relationship with your phone? Or maybe this: Is your smartphone helping you live the life you want to live, or is it in some ways hindering it?