If anyone has ever told you you’re addicted to your smartphone, you’re not alone. In modern culture, people are becoming more dependent on their phones than ever before. With instant access to text messages, emails, social media, games and practically everything else we could want, our dependence on smartphones is starting to resemble a serious addiction. You can find people using their phones when they’re walking, driving, hanging out with friends, waiting for a bus, standing in line, and even using the restroom!
Over half of U.S. adults - 56% to be exact - now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. And according to an IDC Research report, 18 to 44 year olds who own smartphones spend in excess of two hours a day communicating with people via messaging or social media on their phones. Even more staggering is the fact that almost 80% of this group checks their smartphone at least once within 15 minutes after waking up.
So what are the repercussions of this rampant obsession with our phones and should we be describing this behavior as addictive?
Well, in extreme cases, it can cause a slew of problems from social anxiety to car accidents. Researcher and clinical psychologist Lisa Merlo says she has observed many problematic behaviors among smartphone users, including aversion to real-life social interactions and general lack of awareness of their external environments and surroundings.
Other studies have found that smartphone users exhibit signs of under stimulation and boredom when separated from their phone. New findings even suggest that technological addiction is just as serious as substance abuse. Though the consequences may not be as threatening to our health, these actions certainly do steal your time and energy with little payback.
As reported in Psychology Today recently, smartphone usage may be contributing to a modern state of existence in which human communication is suffering. Those who constantly look to their smartphones for stimulation and connectedness may be less skilled in having those same experiences when they are face-to-face with others (perhaps because they’re too focused on waiting for the latest update from their phone).
Psychologists suggest that we use smartphones a little more mindfully, taking caution to give ourselves a break—to occasionally unplug from the constant status updates and emails. Keep it out of reach or turn it off for a few hours a day. Little steps like these might help you combat some of the negative consequences of smartphone overuse.
These researchers may now turn their attention toward the underlying cause of this phenomenon. In other words, instead of thinking about checking your smartphone as an addictive behavior, perhaps they will look more closely at what it is we are checking and what actually drives our need to do so.
Social Media More Addictive Than Booze and Cigs
Cell phone dependence ‘just as real as substance addiction’
Always Connected: How Smartphones and Social Keep Us Engaged
Smartphone dependency: a growing obsession with gadgets
Related Blog Post: Is Social Media Turning Us into Narcissists?