Attached to Our Cell Phones: Device Dependency

attached to our cell phones

In the palm of our hand we can hold a library filled with books, stacks of CDs worth of music, movies and videos galore, a flashlight, a scientific calculator, information on anything you could ever want to purchase, news, the ability to send someone a letter, a short message, or a phone call. In fact, we can take and send pictures—even talk to loved ones through a live video feed. You can mix audio feed and play complex video games. You can even take classes online—all of this in a phone that weighs a few ounces. It’s no wonder we’re so attached to our cell phones! But is it all a bit much?

It can be.

All of these amazing abilities can make our lives safer and more convenient—when used in a responsible way. Take for example the problem of using your phone while driving.

If that doesn’t make you think twice about picking up your phone while driving, I don’t know what will/

What about how attached to our cell phones we are with family?

Many families have grown frustrated with cell phone use at family functions. Grandmothers, who wait all year to see their grandkids, are often ignored in favor of text messages. Many have begun asking family members to drop their phones into a basket as they enter the house. This helps those of us who are attached to our cell phones when we have a large family function. But what about the family members we see every day and take for granted?

Our family chose not to give our kids cell phones until they start college. We had several reasons for this. One compelling reason came from our pediatrician.  During a visit several years ago, she remarked that our oldest daughter must not have a cell phone. I affirmed that and asked how she knew. “She has good eye contact,” remarked the doctor. “You wouldn’t believe what we are seeing these days. Kids are no longer comfortable with direct, face to face communication.” She went on to tell me that just the day before she had a mother and son in the office who actually texted one another—in the same room! That was, of course, extreme. Nonetheless, interpersonal skills have suffered.

Don’t blame it on the kids

“In Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other, Turkle (2012) examined the effects of technology on familial relationships. After interviewing more than 300 young people and 150 adults, Turkle found that children were often times the ones complaining about their parents’ obsession with technology. Turkle discovered that many children believed their parents paid less attention to them than to their smartphones, often times neglecting to interact with them face to face until they had finished responding to emails.”[1]

All you need is a little push (not)

One of the reasons we are so attached to our cell phones is also one of our phone’s biggest drawbacks: constant connectivity. We fill every bit of space in our schedule with something. Then, when an issue arises (as one always will) we have to go into crisis mode to deal with it. We need margin in our lives, like the white space around the words on this page, to allow ourselves a little breathing room.  Yet, make ourselves ever more available, at the beck and call of each push notification.

Like an addictive drug, push notifications have us hooked. We are like Pavlov’s dog, salivating every time we hear the bell. Blackberry originally introduced push notifications as a productivity hack. They reasoned that we wouldn’t feel as attached to our cell phones if we enabled notifications, because we wouldn’t feel the need to check them unless the notification sounded. Unfortunately, notifications have had the opposite effect. We hear the bell and are instantly curious as to what could be waiting for us in that little device. Perhaps if we had less curiosity and more impulse control, things would be different.

What a turn-off!

By turning off your push notifications on your phone, your tablet, and your computers, you can better focus on your work without being at the mercy of anyone who has your email or phone number. Then, when you are good and ready you can check in on what’s happened during that time.

This not only stops distraction but the lag that happens in your brain as you attempt to refocus on the task at hand. That lag costs you 23 minutes and 15 seconds to be more precise. [2]

That’s why this month I’m turning off all of my push notifications. I’m also making space in my life for technology-free zones. I’m doing this by scheduling a few specific 15-minute blocks of time in my day during which I can respond to the people who leave me voice and emails. And I’m quite certain that the world won’t fall apart. If it does, call my husband. He’ll let me know.

What do you think? Are we too attached to our cell phones? Do you use other ways of keeping the urge to peek at that screen at bay? Share in the comments.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

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About Heather EricksonThe Ericksons

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.



[1] Drago, Emily. “The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication.” The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, vol. 6, no. 1, 2015, pp. 13–19.

[2] Mark, Gloria, et al. The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress. University of California, Irvine & Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.

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4 comments on “Attached to Our Cell Phones: Device Dependency

Good points, Heather. Every day, there are more reasons to use a smartphone. It’s more about life management than phone calls, innit. But, kids–and adults–now need to be taught how to use them in social situations. Another job for parents or class for students in school.


Hi Jacqui, One day I had a birdseye view of the courtyard in a hotel. It seemed that half of the people were looking at their cell phones. I was thinking about what the scene would look like 100 years ago. I think that many of those people would have been holding newspapers. Maybe some would be reading a letter from a friend or loved one. Our phones now serve those purposes. It’s easy to blame the breakdown of communication on this wondrous device. As you say, it is really about responsible use in social situations. I think we can best teach these skill to our kids by modeling them. Have a great week!

Push notifications are the devil. I was just telling a class today that they should turn off all social media notifications. And that I don’t have mine enabled. I only allow three notifications on my phone. Calls. Texts. And now I’ve added one more–earthquake alerts. (They just made it available in my county.)

Hi Liz. I have found that turning off all of my push notifications (except the ones you mentioned, which I also keep on)has given me so much peace. No more jarring beep or buzz, vying for my attention.

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