I think when we hear the word “obsession,” our minds tend to go straight to things that surely do not apply to us, as we continue to scroll mindlessly and endlessly across the tiny screens of phones. When was the last time you made it through a family dinner or a meet up with friends without looking at your phone? I would venture to say it has been a while unless you are one of the mindful few.

If an obsession is defined as an idea or thought that continually preoccupies our minds, is it our actual phones we are obsessed with or the false sense of reality they provide us so that we can avoid our own? What psychological voids are we looking to fill, and what is the reason for our phone obsession?

We need validation

We make a post on Facebook or Instagram. We hit refresh. We hit refresh again. It becomes a compulsion to go back and keep checking, scouring for more “likes” or updates. This digital feedback becomes our validation as we await our fate–is my story good enough? Am I good enough?

If somebody likes what we have to say, we feel we have been given a stamp of approval. We become emotionally invested in what other people think about our lives or interests, so our phone obsession stems from the need for someone to care, and when we do not get that approval, we feel secluded.

We need to be in the know

I think we all have anxious tendencies. You could ask the most seemingly care-free person on the planet, and chances are there is still something they want to know. We frequently use our phones to check the news and see what everyone is up to because most of us either fear the unknown or fear being left out.

Most of the time, all this does is lead to us comparing our lives to someone else’s, wondering how we can make ours superior. Most of the time, our constant search for answers only hurts us, as we aim to define ourselves in relation to someone else.

We need people to know us

Perhaps more than our need to be in the know is our desire for people to know us. Living in a society revolved around phones and technology means living without real human experiences and interactions.

Many of us feel the need to force people to know us, not just because we feel lost in a sea of everyone else’s social profiles, but we are missing the fulfillment that comes from real-life social interaction. Our “friends” are not, in fact, our friends. Yet, we keep searching for gratification and love, and if we do not get it from one person, we move on to the next. It becomes a vicious cycle. It becomes an obsession.