ASK FATHER: I’m afraid that my mobile phone addiction will put me in Hell.

From a reader…


I’m appealing to you since you’re technologically adept and understand how easy it is to get attached to electronics.

When I got my first iPhone back in 2009, I wasn’t attached to it. I used to lose it because I never had it on me. Nine years later, here I am unable to put it down. I get sucked in to YouTube, Facebook videos, Googling random and useless things, or get sucked into playing Candy Crush for hours. I can’t even go to the washroom without it. Now I’m so attached/addicted to it that I can’t seem to put it down. I waste so much time every day that it’s starting to have a negative effect on my spiritual/prayer life and I’m scared I’ll wind up in Hell because of its deteriorating effect its causing, but I’m not scared enough that it’s sufficient to simply break my attachment/addiction by giving it up.

Do you have any practical advice in overcoming this?

First, consider that some people become addicted more easily than others.  Hence, they can substitute one addiction with another.  If you are like that, then you also need professional help.

You might try leaving your phone at home when you run errands, leaving it turned off for certain periods of the day.    Delete the apps that you are using too much.   Cutting an app out of your phone is easier than cutting an eye out of your head or chopping your texting hand off.

Some people live as if their phones were another limb.

In Matthew 5 the Lord Himself says, in the context of his instruction about marriage and adultery:

if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.

Next, as I have often written, saying “No” to yourself will result in suffering.  You have to be willing to stay up on this cross that you have been offered.

You have to have some other planned activities, too.  Reading is good!  Physical work can help.  Have a plan.

Of course, along with your own efforts on the human level, you should also ask the angels and saints for help.  I would say in particular your Guardian Angel.  I’ve been told by exorcists that demons are really good at working in and through electronics.


Staying close to the sacraments is important for all of us, but especially those with serious, ongoing problems.

As with anything endeavor in life, we must begin with Mass and go back to Mass.  Bring your problem to the Lord at His altar.  Put your issues into that chalice as it is being prepared.   When you’ve had a good day, go back to thank the Lord in some time before the Blessed Sacrament.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ages says:

    I know several people who have quit the phone cold turkey and replaced their smartphone with a
    “dumb phone” that can only do calls and texting (cumbersomely). Which is how virtually all of us lived 10 years ago.

    If it becomes a true problem, perhaps a “digital detox” is in order. (You’ll also save a lot of money on your phone bill.)

  2. tamranthor says:

    Just a humble suggestion but one I used for my Kindle–make sure the first thing that you look at is a Bible verse, and make sure that you have direct access to a Bible from your phone. Cleaned my act up right good.

  3. MrsMacD says:

    There is an app called ‘Freedom’ that helped me. It costs a couple bucks a year but it’s worth getting your life back. Also getting a flip phone for a few months can help too! You have to replace the addictive habit with something positive.

  4. RichR says:

    Some things that have helped me:

    1. Read more books. A Kindle is a dedicated device that doesn’t suck you into social media, won’t have pop-ups to distract you, and yet it is comfortable for a tech-minded person to transition away from holding a phone all the time. More importantly, by reading books you learn to expand your mind, work your way through a book that is longer than a Facebook post or a Tweet. It’s an important first step in getting over the need to see an update.

    2. Cancel your Facebook account. I know. Heart attack. I stopped FB’ing back in 2012 and haven’t looked back. I’m better able to focus on my real relationships as opposed to my virtual reality relationships. The relationships of our family members, co-workers, and neighbors are the more important relationships in our lives, and they deserve more of our time than our FB contacts who may be half way around the world. By not having that FB account, you will be AMAZED at how free you are. You don’t feel like you have to check if your photos were liked or commented on. You don’t have to keep dippy conversations going just because someone keeps a thread active. If people need to get ahold of me, they can email or text. Otherwise, I’m focused on important things in life.

    3. If you find yourself wasting time on YT or Twitter, vocally call yourself out. “I’m wasting my evening RIGHT NOW! STOP IT!” Then put the device down and leave it until the morning. Have another activity available that you know you can do/should do (talking with a family member, praying a daily Rosary, learning a new hobby, petting your dog, reading your Kindle, reading a Bible, working out, cooking, riding a bike, building a model airplane, ). Just make sure it is FUN. This will make it easier to transition away from your phone. Part of what makes you reach for the phone is it’s fun and easy. If you try to wean yourself from it with something dull, you won’t do it.

    4. Be patient with yourself. It may take time and be uncomfortable. You’re only human. Any new habit takes 40 days to establish itself. You have to take it one day at a time and keep the end goal in sight: freedom from addiction to virtual reality.

  5. robtbrown says:

    I would encourage her to expand her game.

    In so far as she is enamored with her iPhone, let her use it to pray. Download the Guardian Angel prayer, the Salve Regina and other prayers to Christ’s Mother, etc., in between trivial sites.

    And there are interesting videos on youtube, informative about interests (e.g., dog breeds) and good music like Greg Chant.

    The Internet is full of horizon expanders.

  6. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    Go to your provider and buy a flip phone. They’re cheap. You’ll still be connected. They make texting such a hassle that you’ll avoid it except in emergencies. You’ll miss your smartphone for about two days, and then you’ll wonder something like: “Who is the world’s leading exporter of manioc?” You’ll look at your flip phone and realize you can’t get the answer right away and that it doesn’t matter because you don’t need to know that anyway. And you’ll feel the sweet release of freedom. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

  7. My family has tried to talk me into a Smart Phone etc. but I won’t do it. I keep buying flip phones and so does my mother. It is so frustrating to look around at people and their noses are in their phone. They pay no attention to what is being said or what is going on around them. Maybe they call it being “connected”, but I call it being “disconnected” from humans around them. There are billionaires that still use a flip phone so I don’t feel so out of the loop. :)

  8. APX says:

    The irony here is that if it hadn’t been for procrastinating on YouTube, which somehow made me realize that He’ll actually existed and that I needed to go to confession, which caused me to stumble upon this blog, instead of writing my philosophy paper, I likely wouldn’t have ended up returning to the Church.

  9. Tony McGough says:

    Try to turn your phone into a force for good. For instance,
    a) install a Bible app – I use Biblia (RSV Catholic Edition). Perhaps get into the habit of reading around the scriptures of the day – get a bit of context to the readings on offer. And Universalis gives the daily Mass (and Divine Office, if that’s your thing).
    b) we have a what’s app group just for the family – now that most of the children are away from home we use one to exchange news, pictures, jokes, outrageous puns, and the like. The children are much more likely to use it than a phone call. Plus, you don’t play telephone tag
    c) perhaps drop facebook and especially twitter – too much gossip, defamation and libel.
    d) set an alarm for examination of conscience, time for prayer, and for putting the phone away (pretend it’s recharging, but really the phone’s human needs recharging).

    You may have to sell the thing – just as some people have to go teetotal – but if you can use alcohol and smartphones in moderation, much good can come from it.


  10. I love my smartphone. I get the most expensive iPhone that money can buy, and I put my RSV Catholic Edition, the Orthodox Study Bible (hey, it’s got awesome footnotes, okay?), and my Divine Office. Yes, Virginia, there is a way to have it both ways. “I’m using my iPhone for a road map …”

  11. Gripen says:

    I wasted tons of time on my smartphone. But a month or two I bought a dumbphone, and you know what? I’ve rediscovered that I can live without instant access to all the things. Pretty much the biggest thing I miss is having a GPS…but I’m determined to reform my brain to find my way around like people did forever up until ten years ago. Also, dumbphones save a ton of money.

  12. Huber says:

    Too many people venerating the wrong icons…

  13. Thorfinn says:

    Great topic, thanks!

    I think about weather apps. Is it cold out today? Is it going to rain? I can check my phone — or step outside, taste the fresh air, look heavenward and form my own estimate. I might be wrong (also: the app might be wrong). Worst case scenario, I end up a little cold or wet — not the worst thing, and maybe even a good thing, for can it be spiritually healthy to be constantly comfortable? Live a little, take a risk, recall our dependence on God.

  14. Midwest St. Michael says:

    I refuse to get a “smart phone.” I still use a dumb phone. Call me backwards.

    I sort of have the same mentality towards Kindles and the like (sorry, Fr. Z – the early Kindle version my wife gave me sits in the bottom of the top drawer of my dresser). I simply do not have the time to use it. (plus, in my position at my work I cannot have *anything* electronic – including a keyless remote to a car… which my 2000 Corolla does not require. Ha!)

    Besides, I would rather have a book in my hand. Call me old fashioned, I guess.


  15. CradleRevert says:

    Lots of good suggestions here. A couple that I’ve employed myself.

    – Unfollow frivolous accounts on social media (or mute them on Facebook, lest they be family or friends). There is just no reason to waste time curiously watching other peoples’ lives on social media. Once your feed is cleaned up, it diminishes the temptation to logon.
    – Use a random password generator to change your social media passwords to something un-memorizable, then save it in a password safe. This keeps you from logging onto social media on a whim. The extra effort required to dig the password out is a good deterrent.

    And as others have said, get those bloody apps off of your phone.

  16. Lepanto ! says:

    Discipline = Freedom. Get some.

  17. Spade says:

    I had a similar problem, wasting too much time on the internet. But I have to have a smartphone for email.

    So I installed an app blocker, blocked internet browers apps and the app downloader (so I couldn’t install more), and then had my wife put in the password. So now I can’t access any of that stuff. In an emergency or when we’re out, I can have her put in the password.

  18. Imrahil says:

    And of course generally – if our reverend host will suffer my adding two cents’ worth of my own advice –

    we had better remember that God isn’t out there to do you in.

    Hence, who is afraid of Hell should take a reasonable manual of confession, or some such, and check whether what he does is a mortal sin.

    If so, he should at once cease to do so, go to Confession, and – with due regards to the necessary precaution against relapses – stop worrying.

    If not, he simply should stop worrying.

    (In this specific case: As far as I know, mobile-phone use, even actually immoderate and – venially – sinful mobile-phone use, is not a mortal sin.

    Using a mobile phone, or any other device, for, say, breaking the sixth commandment via pornography is of course a mortal sin.)

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