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What Your Cell Phone Addiction and Social Media Use Say About Your Personality

Susanna Sisson's picture
cell phone addiction

Social scientists and app developers say cell phones and social media are designed to be addictive. It’s like turning a gambler loose in a casino or a giving a drug addict an eight ball. Apps are designed to keep you engaged and coming back for more because the more interaction the more money app and social media owners, advertisers, and ultimately stockholders make.


What your cell phone and social media use say about your personality

Remember land lines? I do, but I was never worried about missing a call unless I was expecting a doctor or family to call. In fact, if the land line rang I was pretty sure it was bad news. Once I realized I was paying for a service that I used every few months, if at all, I decided to join the millions who use their cell phone to communicate rather than a land line.

Computers and chat rooms were a different ballgame. You could surf the world-wide-web to your heart’s content. Nights at home were a bit more interesting, and suddenly interacting with a group of people online became a habit; indeed, I would rush home from work to talk to people I didn’t personally know rather than perhaps going to dinner with a friend.

I remember a conversation I had with a psychiatrist friend about 10 years ago over breakfast at a neighborhood diner where people gathered every morning for coffee and crosswords. He claimed that one day direct personal interaction would become a thing of the past. I scoffed. Now when I go to dinner with my kids I have to insist they not use their phone the entire time. They have even been known to text each other over dinner rather than talk sitting at the same table.

Cell phones weren’t really a problem “back in the day”, since their existence and usefulness was more of a necessity in case of emergency, or a way to pass the time on the long commute home from work talking to a friend or loved one. Then there were smart phones, Apples and Androids, and a myriad of apps. I clung to my Blackberry like a life preserver and I a drowning sailor. But others moved on to long lines at the Apple store and high priced and very addictive technology. At the time I just didn’t understand.

One day a friend called and asked if I knew how to post photos on Facebook. I did not, but like the days of old when I was her lifeline for homework at Holy Redeemer, I told her I would help her figure it all out.

So, I had to start a Facebook page. Pretty easy but the rest of the experience reminded me of trying to learn algebra from Filipino nuns with a heavy ‘Pil-i-pin-o’ accent in order to teach it to my classmates; I was pretty much on my own, but we got it done.

A few days later I found a few friends from grade school, then one from high school and realized I could connect with people I hadn’t seen since college. Like million, indeed billions of others I had become a part of social media.
Then came Twitter. I signed up but just didn’t get the appeal and getting texts to my phone every few seconds was the most annoying thing I’d ever experienced. I decided at the time, I just wasn’t Twitter material.

Facebook, however, became a venue for my writing, for sharing opinions and graphics. It became a place to network and market. My following grew every year. Someone asked if I was on Twitter. I didn’t know a hashtag from a hash brown when it came to social media but I learned; and started back to Tweeting to expand my reach.

A few weeks ago I decided to do a little experiment. I wanted to see how giving up my phone for a month would make me feel. I’m happy to report it’s been over three weeks and honestly I don’t miss one. I’m sleeping better. I feel freedom. Luckily, phones have never been an attachment, and I’m glad knowing I’m not addicted.

Psychologists have identified three characteristic phases of addiction:

1. Craving which includes preoccupation and anticipation. Positive reinforcement and impulsivity are part of this phase and drive the process.
2. Binging is the second phase of addiction with hours gone by before you realize.
3. Withdrawal is the final phase and with it brings anxiety and often depression.
Addiction is highly likely to run in families according to past studies and data from twin studies is especially indicative. However, addictions depend on the availability of the addictive agent and the individual’s choice to use it or not.

What is the cost of Cell Phones and Social Media?

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Cell phones and social media are the new heroin when it comes to addiction and the “addiction” is more pronounced in people with addictive personalities. Gaming is just a side step from cell phone addiction. Anything that affects your life to the point it affects your work, activities of daily living, and relationships and meets the criteria for addiction is an addiction.

Statistics on cell phone owners as of 2014 indicated that 91 percent of adults in American own a cell phone, and the majority own smartphones.

The designers of social media platforms know the psychology behind their industry and do continued research to keep building usage and members, but at what cost?

The very format of social media, cell phone or computer usage contradicts the notion of anything “social”. When I think of socials it is in the context of a company picnic, family reunion or church social when you see people you don’t necessarily talk to all the time. Unfortunately, kids and adults who use social media to “socialize” are often the most isolated, and are looking for a connection to the world, but the use of social media rather than actual interaction with people creates more isolation.

Since the advent of cell phones and social media we have seen a rise in patterns of behavior that are considered socially unacceptable, even pathological.

• Bullying – It’s hard enough if you’re awkward or lack confidence to get by in this world. Kids and even adults can be bullied at school or in the work place. When that bullying carries over to social media and becomes cyberbullying the effects and impact can be far-reaching. Cyberbullying via social media or texting has been blamed for an increase in suicides. The most recent case against a then 17-year-old Michelle Carter in 2014 encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy, III to commit suicide was recently ruled manslaughter. She may face up to 20 years in prison. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case.
• Stalking – I see complaints from friends every day about being stalked on social media, whether by strangers or someone they know. While stalking is a criminal offense, many times nothing is done by law enforcement to help. Cyber-stalking is obsessive monitoring of or attention to a victim and is often an attempt to harass or harm. One study of more than 350 homicides suggests the majority of killers stalk their victims on social media before murdering them.
• Hate speech – The virtual anonymity of the internet makes some people bullet-proof and ten feet tall. While they might not engage in hate speech or verbal attacks in person, they may feel empowered to do it online.
• Identity theft – Every day tens of thousands of social media accounts or intellectual property is taken over by cyber criminals. It may be for the purpose of taking over a social media account, email or even a bank account. ID theft is a major problem world-wide.
• Online grooming by predators – Online grooming by predators has increased across the board and isn’t limited to just children but adults who may be at risk. Most newsworthy of late is the case of missing Tennessee teen Elizabeth Thomas by a 50-year-old teacher Tad Cummins that resulted in a nationwide manhunt. Luckily the girl was recovered but many such cases end in murder or missing persons who are never found. Human trafficking is a huge problem in the U.S. and globally and predators are using social media to find their victims.
• Privacy – Social media opens a door to many people’s lives. Criminals have many tools to not monitor social media in order to benefit. Never post that you are going to be away from home overnight, home alone or out of town on vacation. Social medial is about being responsible for your own privacy. Kik is one social media site popular with children and teens because of the lack of parental controls but it was recently used by two Virginia Tech students to lure a 13 year old Nicole Lovell to her death.

How Social Media Creates FOMO - Fear of Missing Out

Once they become inundated in social media, and watching other people interact they often develop what is called FOMO – fear of missing out which drives usage and behavior.

Kids today spend an average of nine hours a day on some form of social media or using other digital technology. Most report they are texting, watching videos or interacting with other people while doing homework.

Adults aren’t far behind. Social Media Today estimates adults spend an average of nearly two hours on social media every day, or a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime. I would hazard a guess those figures are conservative at best.

The “like” system is designed to give people a sense of belonging and acceptance. There is even a trend among people to belong to the “100 club” which gives them the misconception of being “popular”.

Psychologists warn that for kids or adults who already suffer from low self-esteem or a lack of confidence, social media can have negative emotional implications when these people judge their success or failure by the number of friends they have on the Facebook, the number of likes received, or if they are included in a specific group.


Whether drugs, alcohol, sex, heroin, gambling or the newest addictions to your cell phone and social media perhaps if you feel you have an addiction it may be time to step back, be introspective, make an assessment, and consider a plan of action. You may find the experience broadens your horizons, frees you to re-enter the real world, and makes you healthier mentally or physically. At the very least you may get a better night’s sleep.



Great article. Bugbean has developed an Android only app called AntiSocial which help's users control and track their phone usage. A great app to slowly reduce the time spent on social media by using the 3 blocking modes available. Highly recommend downloading AntiSocial and taking the 2 week challenge.