DEAR AMY: I have realized lately, after years of denial, that I am addicted to my smartphone and to social media. Sometimes it gets to the point where I can’t even watch a movie without needing to be on my phone, checking every social media account as I watch the movie. The odd thing is that even when there is nothing new and I’ve scrolled Instagram already, I feel like I need to go back and scroll more. I find myself missing the time before I was glued to my phone, where I was more able to relax and enjoy my quiet days. Any advice?
DEAR ADDICTED: Using a smartphone will expose you to triggers that will make you want to use it more. Apps are engineered to increase the amount of time you spend glued to them. This is not about you — this is, quite simply, the human brain on Instagram.
I periodically go on “fasts” from social media, and the easiest way to do this is to delete the app from your phone (don’t worry, your account remains open).
If you don’t see the app winking at you from your screen, you won’t be triggered to use it. You will feel quieter, more relaxed and also more connected to your own inner and more deeply personal life. And — guess what? It turns out that you don’t really need to scroll through others’ experiences, seeing pictures of their kids, cats and entrees, in order to be involved with the world.
Several current studies purport to link smartphone over-usage to unhappiness and even depression. I can only report my own experience of app-fasting, which is that I feel lighter, brighter and more available when I loosen the tether and simply let all of those distractions go.
After only 24 hours or so, you might feel “scrubbed” from the desire to reach for the phone. And then, once you stop missing it, you realize you’re not missing much. This experience will help to modulate your usage.
Other people I know have traded in their “smart” devices for flip phones, and that seems like a radical and righteous choice for anyone who feels addicted.
DEAR AMY: My wife divorced me in 1978. She had a son whom I adopted after we married. He was 8 when we divorced. I was in the Air Force and they were in another state, but I tried to stay in touch. Every time that I tried to see him, she would come up with an excuse as to why it was not a good time. This went on for 10 years after the divorce. I wrote to my son, but he never responded. He got married and sent my mother and my sister (his aunt) an invitation, but not me. I had a heart attack and my sister told him about it, but he never got in touch. I finally sent him one last letter to tell him that I was no longer going to try to stay in touch because it has been obvious that he wants nothing to do with me. He told my sister that I had sent him a very nasty letter (not true). I believe that my ex-wife has told him a false story that has influenced him. Do you have any other ideas as to what I could do?
Still Wondering After All These Years
DEAR STILL WONDERING: Your sister is a potential go-between. She is in touch with your son and has proved capable of passing along a message (of sorts) from him. Can she help you now?
You can assume that your son’s life path has taken many twists and turns, just as yours has. His feelings about the father he knew only briefly may have hardened, and so have yours. I hope you will try again. Write him a calm, informative letter about your own life. Tell him you never stopped thinking about him and that you’ve tried in many different ways to have contact with him. Say that you will try to stay open to hearing about his feelings — even if they are negative.
DEAR AMY: “Anguished Mother” wondered about offering her young adopted son DNA testing to answer questions about his ethnicity. I firmly disagree with your advice to make this available to him. He’s too young, and he has dangerous family members who might find him if they learn of their connection.
DEAR WORRIED: I agree that guarding the child’s privacy is paramount. Thank you.