The blank stare and vibrant glow is all too familiar. In the theater, restaurant, bar, wherever—You can count on people using their smartphones way beyond the “I really need to take this call” excuse. It’s become a part of the atmosphere. Now, people walk the streets with their head down looking at their device, oblivious of their surroundings. While smartphones have made life easier for many of us, our love of them is becoming more like an addiction worthy of support groups and crisis hotlines.
There are all kinds of addictions, and, like most, people will deny having one…especially to their smartphone. So here’s your chance to be a junior scientist. The next time you’re out somewhere, scan the crowd. You’ll probably notice the majority of people are on their phone as if major breaking news—Aliens have landed, earth has achieved world peace, the Kardashians have actually done something to merit fame—is occurring and their device is the only place it’s being announced. Nope, they’re just texting, Facebooking, gaming. In an April 2012 study by AV-Comparatives, it was found that 70% of smartphone users never turn their devices off—Meaning they stay connected 24/7.
These days it seems people attend functions only so they can check in at the location, tweet about it and not be left out of any Facebook photos. Honestly, how many times have you taken a picture and instantly thought it would make a great profile picture? Some people even pretend to be using or talking on their device to avoid eye contact or other social interactions.
Now close your eyes and pretend your smarphone was lost, stolen or a baby flushed it down the toilet—I don’t know. Regardless, it’s gone, gone, gone like Pauly Shore’s career. Do you feel your heart racing? Awful feeling, isn’t it? Even if you accidentally leave your device somewhere you know is safe, like your car, that doesn’t make it feel any less traumatic. You still search your pockets and have a mini freak-out before remembering where it is. Consider this separation anxiety mixed with addiction.
It’s tough to say smartphones are more addictive than cigarettes, mainly because there is no true biological dependence on the device as there is with nicotine, but it certainly can become habit forming. Whether it’s shopping, overeating or gambling, not all addictions are substance-related. The rising global smartphone addiction has even gotten to the point that many countries have implemented harsh laws against using them while driving and launched ad campaigns warning of the risks.
These days, people go out to restaurants and set their phone next to their plate, as if it were another guest at the table. Put it in my pocket or purse, you say? Ha! That’s about as likely as me erasing my high score for Angry Birds. The reliance can be startling as more and more people ditch their cameras, iPods, and paper maps in favor of the all-powerful, electronic “Swiss Army Knife.”
If you think people aren’t as dependent on these little devices as many are to cigarettes, think again. According to J.D. Power and Associates, the average smartphone user spends about $107 each month for wireless access—More than the average household pays for electricity each month.
According to another recent report from British mobile phone provider 02 UK, smartphone owners spend an average of two hours per day using their device and the majority of this time, nearly 25 minutes, is spent browsing the internet. Surprisingly, making calls and sending text messages accounted for just 12.13 and 10.2 minutes respectively. The report also found that 54 percent of smartphone owners use their device in place of an alarm clock, 46 percent use it in place of a watch and 39 percent use their phone in place of a separate camera.
Now don’t get me wrong, smartphones are without a doubt one of the best pieces of technology developed over the last few years. I love them, work with them and sing their praises. They can do almost anything, which makes it all the more difficult to break away. We just need to realize when the line that separates “help” from “hinder” is nearing.
As the saying goes, moderation is key to maintaining a healthy life and relationships. Smartphones can help you make connections and interact with people, but it is just an aid. Be sure you use the device at the right times to strengthen your life, not impede it.
Don’t think you can put your smartphone down for a little bit? Test you and your friends with this fun game called “Phone Stacking,” created by Brian Perez. Here are the rules:
1) At the beginning of the meal, everyone puts their phone face down at the center of the table.
2) During the meal, you’ll hear calls, texts and emails arrive, but you can’t pick up your phone.
3) The first person to give in and flip their phone over loses the game and has to buy everyone dinner.
4) If no one checks their phone by the time the bill arrives, everyone buys their own meal.