Do you own your smartphone, or does your smartphone own you?

Do you own your smartphone, or does your smartphone own you?

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Are you addicted to your smartphone? A shocking number of people could probably answer yes to that question. Are you addicted to your smartphone? A shocking number of people could probably answer yes to that question.
6 News met two East Tennesseans who say they are addicted to their smartphones, Ginger Roberts of Harriman and Timothy Dennis of Powell. 6 News met two East Tennesseans who say they are addicted to their smartphones, Ginger Roberts of Harriman and Timothy Dennis of Powell.
They use them for normal texting and calling, but they say it's the endless capabilities right in the palm of their hands that keeps them glued. They're talking about social media. They use them for normal texting and calling, but they say it's the endless capabilities right in the palm of their hands that keeps them glued. They're talking about social media.
"Anytime there are negative or adverse consequences, and the behavior is repeated, that tends to look like addiction," said interventionist Bill Lee. "Anytime there are negative or adverse consequences, and the behavior is repeated, that tends to look like addiction," said interventionist Bill Lee.
Bill Lee says start small when trying to cut back, setting boundaries when it comes to phone use. Bill Lee says start small when trying to cut back, setting boundaries when it comes to phone use.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Are you addicted to your smartphone? A shocking number of people could probably answer yes to that question.

Are you on it all hours of the day and feel anxious if you accidentally leave it behind or can't use it for a while?

These could all be signs of addiction to your smartphone, and experts say the constant need to be on your phone could actually be causing real harm.

So it begs the question, do you own your smartphone, or does your smartphone own you?

6 News met two East Tennesseans who say they are addicted to their smartphones, Ginger Roberts of Harriman and Timothy Dennis of Powell. 

"I look at it so much, it's like breathing," said Roberts, 37.

"Basically, anytime I have a chance, I'm on it," said Dennis, 18. "If I didn't have my phone, I'd go crazy."

They are consumed with their phones every second of the day, from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed, checking their iPhones up to 100 times a day.

"I roll over and pick up my phone," said Dennis.

They use them for normal texting and calling, but they say it's the endless capabilities right in the palm of their hands that keeps them glued.

They're talking about social media.

"I'll wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning because I thought I heard a Facebook notification and I'll get on and check it," said Dennis.

"Somebody liked it. I'm not sure who," said Roberts, showing us the often used Facebook app on her phone.

Roberts estimates she is on her phone more than 15 hours every day, often without even realizing it.

"I will automatically, without thought, automatically go to my phone," said Roberts.

Dennis says he exhibits the same compulsive behavior.

So is this really addiction?

Addiction specialist and interventionist Bill Lee, of Cornerstone of Recovery, says the true test is whether or not they can stop the behavior for any real period of time without worrying obsessively about it.

Both Roberts and Dennis say no. They get anxious even after just one hour away from their phones.

"[The feeling is] that somehow if I don't have my phone with me, then I am missing something, like an arm or a leg. The more prevalent that is, the unhealthier it is," said Lee, describing how those suffering from addiction feel.

Lee says another thing to consider is consequences.

"Anytime there are negative or adverse consequences, and the behavior is repeated, that tends to look like addiction," said Lee.

Both Roberts and Dennis say they see real life problems as a result of their smartphone use.

Roberts says it puts a strain on her relationships when she chooses her phone over conversation with friends or family she's spending time with.

"It keeps me from really talking to people. I mean, really talking to people," said Roberts.

Dennis' smartphone use is affecting his schoolwork. When he should be listening in class or doing homework, instead he's checking updates or playing games on his phone.

"I can't live without my phone. I've tried," said Dennis.

Lee says setting boundaries is the way to break this addiction. He suggests setting times of day when phone use will simply not be allowed.

So how hard of a task is this smartphone disconnect, and what kind of changes could it really bring to smartphone addicts' lives?

To find out, we asked the team at Knoxville creative agency JAO PRO. They went smartphone free for three weeks, filming their experience in the documentary "Voyage."

The film follows their 1,000 mile river trip from Knoxville to the Gulf of Mexico. Locking their phones into a waterproof box, they set sail.

It was a tough adjustment to go phone-less for the group of 15 people.

"The first couple days of the trip were definitely hard as far as just resisting that impulse to reach in your pocket and pull out your phone and see what's going on," said Blake Waring, production manager of "Voyage" and vice president of operations at JAO PRO.

By the end of week one though, the once-overwhelming, urgent need to check their phones went away, replaced with relief from the constant bombardment.

Waring says they were amazed at the difference they saw in the quality of their conversations.

"It was really interesting to see how people interacted with each other and got to know people and got to know people that we met," said Waring.

Since returning, they've all got their phones back.

However, they say the results they saw from the trip has made them cut down significantly on how much they use them.

They recommend everyone try cutting back a little bit, even if it's just an hour a day.

"I think moderation is key when it comes to that, and I think everyone has been able to understand that better and realize that we don't have to have it every second," said Waring.

It's something Roberts and Dennis say they are more than willing to try.

Lee says start small when trying to cut back, setting boundaries when it comes to phone use.

He suggests trying things like not using your phone in the middle of school or work, before bedtime or when spending time with friends or family.

"Voyage" is scheduled for release in the next few months. To view a trailer of the film, as well as details on its upcoming Knoxville premiere, visit JAO PRO's website.

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