By Vince Gerasole

CHICAGO (CBS) — You pick up your phone intending to spend just a few minutes checking social media or texts and the next thing you know – an hour has gone by. Are we addicted to our smartphones?

Vince Gerasole went searching for the answer.

Phone in hand, Rhonda Scullark may remind you of yourself.

“I can’t function without my phone. I’ll be honest,” the middle school dean says.

Because she communicates with parents and her own daughters, her phone is essential.

“I was talking on my phone, and then I said, ‘Wait where’s my phone?'”

“I can’t ignore a buzz or a little notification on my phone,” says Zac Gallagher, a senior at Loyola and a social media chair for two clubs.

His story sounds familiar too.

“It’s like a trigger that you need to pick up the phone and check it,” Gallagher says.

We asked Rhonda and Zac to measure their weekly phone use with the Android app Quality Time. It not only clocks their minute-by-minute usage, but breaks that down app-by-app.

In Rhonda’s case, she was on her phone over 41 hours one week, more than 21 hours on Facebook and 7.5 spent texting.

“It honestly does feel like a lot to me,” Rhonda says.

Zac spent 21 hours on his phone; over 6.5 on Facebook and 2 hours on Snapchat.

When he looks at his results, his response?


“We’re using the phone as a drug. It’s a digital drug,” says Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction.

He estimates five to 10% of people are truly addicted. Another 80% overuse, misuse, or abuse their smartphones.

Here’s why:

“It’s highly distracting, and it changes your brain chemistry,” says Dr. Greenfield.

Think of it this way, every time you get an alert from your favorite app, there’s a good chance you feel better, which increases the production of dopamine, the feel good chemical in our brains.

“You are classically conditioned every time you get a ping that lets you know that there’s a reward waiting,” says Dr. Greenfield.

Together these high tech Chicago area bloggers tried a seven-day smartphone detox.

“It was hard at first. I will not lie that I would turn on my phone, scroll through like, ‘where’s my Facebook icon?'” says Beth Prystowsky.

Their detox included removing social media apps like Facebook and Twitter, turning off the sounds of push notifications, and yes even venturing out for dinner leaving the phone at home.

“At first I had to fight not to check it, and then it got easier, because I realized I wasn’t doing something against my will. I wanted to do this,” says Nina Vallone.

Rhonda has already made some of those changes — no phones at mealtime, for example — but it isn’t easy.

“I’m a work in progress. We’re not gonna say addiction though,” she says.

Dr. Greenfield says addiction doesn’t equal the number of hours you spend on your phone. Instead, it’s how using the phone negatively impacts your quality of life; including your relationships, schoolwork, job performance, and finances.