In an average lifetime, a person spends 11 years on their smartphone. That’s 4,015 days. That’s 96,360 hours.
How often are you in line at a coffee shop and you look around to find everyone glued to their cell phone screens? How about while riding public transportation, such as the bus, and you look up to see everyone with headphones plugged into their smartphones—tuned out? How about in class? At work? It’s a rare circumstance for a student or employee to be without their cell phone within arms reach. According to a 2015 Pew Research Study, 46% of people say they “could not live without their phone.” Researchers have coined the term “nomophobia” to define the fear of being without one’s mobile device.
Are we as the consumers the ones to blame for this excessive usage?
These smartphones are designed to keep our attention. “Called the ‘closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,’ by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris spent three years as a Google Design Ethicist developing a framework for how technology should ‘ethically’ steer the thoughts and actions of billions of people from screens.” According to Tristan, there are thousands of people, software developers and technicians, whose job it is to break down the self-regulation we might have.
Of course, technology and innovations are very important for progression and our developing world, however the smartphone is different. In the past, innovations have a special space in consumers’ lives and mostly are restricted by their functions or where they are used, such as a desktop computer, or the first version of a Playstation game console. The smartphone transcends these limitations. The smartphone becomes one’s best friend, it holds the answers to every question, and can be held in your pocket or purse at all times.
Why would we need anything else? How could these innovations hurt us? It just keeps us “more connected,” right? Wrong.
Often we do not seriously associate the word “addiction” with technology usage or other behaviors. It is common to see people on their smartphone during a meal, while at the gym, in class, and even during business meetings. Yet we rarely think of that person on their phone as being “addicted” to it. According to Adam Atler, an author and professor in psychology, “addiction is produced largely by environment and circumstance…Steve Jobs knew this, he kept the iPad from his kids because for all the advantages that made them unlikely substance addicts, he know they were susceptible to the iPad’s charms.” Behavioral addictions such as smartphone addiction is dangerous because they can go unnoticed for years and it is very easy to mask them. For example, how many times do you think you unlock your smartphone per day? Apple confirmed that iPhone users are unlocking their phones 80 times every day. That’s about as much as six to seven times every hour.
Excessive smartphone use or addiction is impacting our relationships with our loved ones. There has been a term coined in the past 10 years called “phubbing.” The definition of phubbing is to “ignore (a person or one’s surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device.” How many of us have been here or seen it happen while you’re out? This term is used a lot especially when referring to romantic relationships, but it happens all the time with our friends and family. Phubbing can be disrespectful, and can damage relationships.
A study was done to measure whether Smartphone presence had any impact on one’s cognitive capacity. It was performed with a sample of students, where they were divided up into three groups, one with a smartphone present on their desk, one with a smartphone in their bag or pocket, and one without a smartphone present at all. They were instructed to take two different tests (Ospan) that would measure their working memory and another to measure fluid intelligence. Working memory is defined as the ability to store and manage information in one’s mind for a short period of time.They found that when the smartphone was present, the students performed significantly worse on the tests than if the phone was in another room. Below is the graph showing the first Ospan test and the results.
The scientists concluded that separation from the smartphone may allow people to reduce distraction, interruption, and also increase their available cognitive capacity. These findings are very beneficial for a majority of what we do on a daily basis. For example: students might be able to perform better in the classroom if phones were not allowed inside, employees may complete their tasks more efficiently if they put their phones in their bags or in a drawer for periods of time, and parents might be able to be more present in their children’s lives if they knowingly left their phones when they played with them or listened to their stories.
According to a study on the correlation of smartphone usage and anxiety and depression in University students, “35.9% felt tired during daytime due to late-night smartphone use, 38.1% acknowledged decreased sleep quality, and 35.8% slept less than four hours due to smartphone use more than once.” As we all know, sleep is essential in productivity in our daily lives and lack of sleep can impact mood, attention, and happiness. Often, smartphone users are browsing social media sites, reading news, and even emails before bed and right when they wake up. This usability can seem harmless but often spending 5-10 minutes can lead to hours.
Suicide and depression rates in adolescents have risen since 2010 and researchers have suggested that screen time is a very important factor. In fact, studies have show that teens using electronic devices 3 or more hours a day were 34% more likely to have at least one suicide-related outcome than those using devices 2 or fewer hours a day.
I don’t think we are addicted to our actual smartphones. I think we are entranced in the way they make us feel when we use them. We feel occupied, connected, affirmed, informed, and inspired. The problem is that we are giving the power of all those feelings, to one dominant device. There is no debate that smartphones will continue to be used, it is just the issue of how often they are used.
Wouldn’t you rather spend those 11 years, 4,015 days, 96,360 hours with your family and friends, enjoying and doing all of the things you love? Here are a few tips to help you become aware of your screen time, and what you can do to moderate it.
- BECOME AWARE: Do you know how much time you are spending on your cell phone per day? Download the App Moment if you are interested in actually seeing how many minutes / hours you are spending on screen time.
- SET GOALS: Just like anything in life, you will have to work at this whole “less-screen time-thing”. Once you’ve seen how much time you are spending per day, decide a decent and reasonable amount for you. Maybe it’s cutting it down by an hour or two hours. Hold yourself accountable to this time limit.
- PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY: If you are with friend, out to dinner, in a movie, at the office, or in the classroom, make an effort to put your cell phone away and don’t leave it in eye’s sight. You will find yourself much more productive, and much less distracted.