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Phone addiction: it’s a 21st Century thing

How often do you think you check your phone a day? For many of us, your guess will probably be far lower than the actual figure, mainly because we probably don’t even realise we’re doing it. Whether ‘innocently’ looking at the time or checking to see how many likes our latest Instagram pic hast, these little glances at your device all add up.

Photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu

 

The word addiction though seems pretty strong. To some addiction implies something negative – a weakness, a dependency, something that is completely out of our control. Can we really label what is essentially a bad habit, an addiction? Like a caffeine or a nicotine addiction… It’s not quite the same is it? Recent research does in fact suggest that our love affair with smartphones is having a deeply negative effect on everyday life.

Back in 2015, The Huffington Post reported on research by Baylor University which linked phone addiction to depression. The study concluded that people who check their phones constantly could be trying to improve a negative mood”. Does that mean these people are relying on their phones to provide them with an injection of happiness that cannot be achieved through real-life interactions, such as a conversation with a friend? The research continues by saying that phone dependency has been linked to loneliness, shyness and lack of sleep. All of which makes perfect sense but is nonetheless worrying.

I’d be the first to admit that I’m guilty of being a little too attached to my smartphone. My latest vice being Instagram. I say latest loosely, it’s been my thing for well over a year now and whilst I do post photos on a weekly basis, my weakness lies with the scrolling. Like popping bubble wrap, the comfort of the scroll is incredibly moreish and I’m just not sure why.

If I’m totally honest with myself, it’s probably that ‘in-the-moment’ need to make sure I don’t miss out London’s latest reasonably priced restaurant opening or Pink’s most recent political rant. With social media now pretty much running in real-time how can we not get ‘hooked’?!

In September 2016 BBC News reported on a survey carried out by Deloitte that concluded that “people in the UK have never been more addicted to their smartphones”  a statement backed up by the following stats:

  • One in three UK adults has argued with their partner about using their mobile phone too much.
  • One in three UK adults – and half of 18-24 year olds – said they checked their phones in the middle of the night, with instant messaging and social media the most popular activities.
  • One in 10 smartphone owners admitted reaching for their phone as soon as they woke up – with a third grabbing the device within five minutes of waking.

I could tick all of the above. Guilty as charged. What’s particularly scary about these stats is that they’re relevant on a personal level to so many of us.

If this does bother you what is there that can be done?

Exercise some willpower? Set yourself little targets like reading on the train to work for at least 15 minutes a day (that’s 15 minutes you won’t be on your phone) or banning devices from meal times.

As with most things though, there’s always the option of a compromise. You may or may not be surprised to learn that there are plenty of apps available that encourage you to put down your phone – oh the irony! In a recent listicle on The 10 Thing there are ten different apps showcased that help you either stay away from your device or at least reduce the time spent on it. The following statement confirms why these platforms are indeed popular and often necessary; A study conducted by dscout in 2016 found that the average smartphone user taps, swipes, touches or clicks their device 2,617 times a day. The apps listed on the article range from friendship-making (Chatzoome) and meditative (Headspace) platforms through to stricter and more blatant options such as Flipd.

With all this is mind I think we can agree that whilst your smartphones are pretty incredible for many things in modern day life (seriously, where would we be without Google Maps?!) when used as a comfort blanket it can in fact prove to be a hindrance. As a report from SimpleMost on The 6 Health Benefits of Being Social states; when it comes to socializing, face-to-face interactions have more of an impact than emails or phone calls when it comes to mental wellbeing.” The article continues to say that face-to-face interactions can stave off feelings of depression and ultimately improve your mood.

So, yes, we could be addicted to a lot worse, but the benefits of human interaction and emotional connection will always outweigh those generated through a smartphone.

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Costanza Passeri

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