Do you know what percentage of the population need to use their phone at least once every hour? You’re going to be speechless when you read that number. More about that below…
Alright, everybody knows that smartphones can be addictive.
They are undoubtedly useful, in a lot of activities in day to day life.
But they are addictive nonetheless.
Some say they are not affected at all by the presence or absence of smartphones in their lives, but most agree about the dependence induced by smartphones.
So let’s take a look at some informative studies rather than debating on whether smartphones affect people’s lives in a major way or not. And if they do, to what extent.
1. The Bare Essentials: A Simple Survey on Basic Needs
Everyone knows that food, water and air are needed for survival. Some have said humans need intercourse as well. But the privileged class of cellphone users across the world would beg to differ.
In a Gazelle survey conducted on over 800 people, 15% of the respondents said they could not leave their cellphones for a weekend but they could give sex a miss.
40% said they would go without a bath but not without their cellphone, this in a world where we are said to be moving towards more safety and sanitation.
What is more alarming is that 60% of these folks said that living without their cellphones was unimaginable to them. This is but a simple hint towards growing cellphone addiction across the world.
2. The Nomophobidemic: A Survey of the Not-so-Smart Insecure Users of the Smartphone
Yes, there was a time when people used to be insecure in their relationships; always checking on their partner, calling frequently, etc. Now the smartphone has become more like a paramour.
WE are constantly checking on it. Is my phone okay? Should I clean the case again? Do I need more credit?
Nomophobia (the fear of being out of mobile phone contact) is growing around the world at an alarming rate.
In surveys across the world, people have said they have had the same panic attacks when losing cell phones as they have had when going to the dentist or to their own wedding.
Some minor heart attacks have even been reported by some mobile phone users when losing this little devil that we call a phone.
It is therefore less surprising that over 53% of people were found to experience some form of anxiety when they didn’t have any contact with their cell phone.
These figures still do not seem to be enough to alter the lack of oversight regarding cell phone usage and cellphone related addiction.
Around 16% of the people in the Gazelle study said they were not at all concerned about it, 26% said they were somewhat concerned and only 22% said they were concerned.
However, among the regular phone users there is a growing realization since 36% said they were very concerned with issues related to insomnia, diet and general loss of hearing and health.
These figures strongly suggest that people are already aware about the condition, but they go on with their regular lives without taking any action about it.
3. Brain Damage: A Tale of Chemistry
Smartphones keep internet addiction alive even when people are on the move. This should be enough to grow the concern about this addiction.
Researchers believe that cell phone users are more likely to have a changed configuration in their brain chemical balance.
In the case of cell phone users, certain chemical receptors may become hyper-sensitive. Our brains apparently deliver a chemical reward based on positive internet activity. We become dependent on the number of Facebook Likes and Comments we receive.
On the other hand, the lack of these positive stimulus result in chemical cravings that can even lead to depression.
As an illustration, this effect is similar to what a nicotine addict may experience every time he takes a puff.
4. The Globe is Warming to the Effect of Smartphone Addiction
People do not acknowledge the extent of phone addiction until they come to the realization state.
In the same group of 800 people cited above, 84% people were found to believe that smartphone addicts really exists, just as global warming does.
71% of the people said they know someone who is addicted to their cell phone, 57% even said the number of phone addicts is going to increase over time.
Another 52% admitted to have the addiction presently in some form or the other, or to have experienced it in the past. And 45% said that they feel the need to use their cell phone at least once in an hour.
There are people who even went on to say that they checked their cell phones every five minutes as long as they were awake and every time that they took a trip to the bathroom at night.
5. Phone Memory or Human Memory: Which One Do We Use Most?
Our phones have a live memory, or a random access memory and a permanent memory called the storage. Similarly, we have a short-term and a long-term memory for current and cumulative events.
The more we rely on our phone, the less we use our own long-term and short-term memory.
Notifications, reminders, daily planners, alarms, calculations, notes, updates, appointments, etc. every function can be executed using a cellphone.
There are also countless ways to get distracted by surfing the net, watching movies online, browsing photos, listening to songs, etc.
All of this results in the perfect recipe for disrupted attention and short term memory loss. But the plasticity of our brains make them capable of adopting new systems, adapting to situations and recovering from many negative situations.
To illustrate that point, in a study at Gazzaley Lab at UCSF, NeuroRacer, a specific video game was designed to increase peoples’ short term memory by up to 20-80%.
This also means the battle is not all lost for us.
As long as we have a healthy brain, we can choose to increase its capacities. That is unless we deliver a final stroke and damage it by constant exposure to cellphone radiation.
6. An Experiment on Feelings Associated to Phone Addiction
Just like recovering alcoholics, cellphone addicts can experience a wide range of side effects when on withdrawal.
People cannot live without their cell phones. It’s a well-established fact. 66% of the respondents to the previously cited studies agree on that point.
How then can we expect people to live for one whole week without their cell phones?
6a. The Experiment Protocol
In an experiment on a week-long cellphone withdrawal, many interesting discoveries were made.
Seven people were asked to go without their cell phones for the given period of time. The whole experiment was recorded. Unless they had a dire emergency, these people could not touch their beloved cell phones at all.
Firstly, they were asked to record every time they were confronted by the incessant urge to use their phone. Along with this, they were asked to write down why exactly they were compelled to use it and any emotion they felt about it.
Finally, these people were also asked to record any event of frustration, inconvenience, anxiety or any other feeling they experienced.
The inconvenience was measured based on one factor: the extra time they had spent executing a task, when they could have done it by simply making a phone call.
Every participant was asked which of the smartphone functions such as general phone features of texting or calling, or Facebook or any other social media platforms, or simple email, they missed the most.
Now, to the fun part: the results.
6b. Some of the Observations, Deductions, and Findings
Once the protocol for the experiment was set, all data was compiled to compare the various participants’ reactions. Here are some key findings.
Let us take the case of general phone usage. There were some interesting findings in this study.
A total of 66 instances of mild anxiety, 25 instances of higher than mild anxiety and 11 instances of extreme anxiety were noted. Similarly, 66 instances of mild frustration, 31 of moderate and 16 of high level frustration were observed. The similarity in numbers proves that the level of frustration and anxiety go hand in hand for the average mobile phone user.
Now let’s observe smartphone specific functions such as emails or social networking. There were 4 instances of mild anxiety, 7 instances of moderate anxiety and 6 instances of high anxiety. On a parallel note, there were 92 cases of mild frustration, 21 instances of moderate frustration and 6 of high frustration.
When comparing the data, it can be seen that frustration and anxiety were mild most of the time, which means the corresponding issues could not have been all that important.
There is a 39% increase in instances of anxiety when people couldn’t use smart features of the cellphone. This suggests that people have the habit of using their cell phones to remain active on social media sites whenever they like.
The experiment also concluded that 79% more instances of anxiety were observed when people were not able to use the basic functions of calling and texting. This tends to show that people are more concerned about staying in touch with their folks than about using advanced featured of their phones.
Throughout the week, more interesting facts were observed.
When the data from all the participating individuals was collected, the times that they were anxious or uncomfortable and the times they were perfectly normal were noted.
It was observed that inconvenience and anxiety levels were not affected to a large extent prior to and after the experiment. On the testing scale, it was observed that inconvenience was 3 on Sunday whereas it was 2.5 on Monday.
This means that the weekends were more uncomfortable for people in general than was the beginning of the week.
Anxiety levels also varied from 2.18 to 1.38 in the same time frame. It was found that people did not adjust to live without their cell phones as anxiety remained constant through the week.
The peak was found to be mid-week on Thursday when the inconvenience was observed to be 7.0.
This could be because being in the middle of the week, on Thursday people are still focusing on the week’s work, but additionally on the plans for the weekend.
Another interesting discovery was that frustration itself declined fast from 3.31 on Monday to 1.5 by week’s end. This again gives a hint that if people trained themselves to living without cell phones, they could adjust to it in no time at all.
Now let us take a look at the inconvenience, frustration and anxiety over these seven days combined. These were combined and compared in terms of ratios. The ratios used for the calculations were inconvenience to convenience ratio, anxiety ratio and frustration ratio. The ratios depict the degree of emotion felt. The findings for inconvenience ratio, frustration ratio and anxiety ratio were as follows.
On Monday they were 2.5, 3.3 and 1.3, respectively. On Tuesday, 3.9, 4.0 and 1.0. On Wednesday, 1.7, 5.0 and 1.4. On Thursday, 7.0, 0.7 and 0.4. On Friday, 2.7, 7.2 and 0.6. On Saturday, 4.2, 6.0 and 0.9. Finally, on Sunday, the values were 3.0, 1.5 and 2.1.
We can see that the inconvenience ratio peaks on Thursday whereas anxiety and frustration go down and are at their least on the same day. Maximum frustration was observed on Friday, the beginning of the weekend and maximum anxiety on Sunday.
6c. In the Respondents’ Words
People who underwent the experiment also had some interesting things to share about their experience.
A participant went on to say that the overall experience was rather enjoyable and not at all like an ordeal. The experiment was seen by most as a form of detox where they learned how to control their urge to pick up a call.
After the experiment, the participants felt much more confident about battling nomophobia and thought it was okay if they missed a call or two.
Being available at all times was no longer seen as a compulsion.
Another participant said that he got more chance to interact with real people while on the experiment. He added that people can have a real conversation if they are not distracted by technology constantly.
This can actually be benefiting in a lot of ways in the long run.
Additionally, participants said that earlier they used phones reactively. That is, if they saw someone else using their phone, they felt a compulsive, incessant urge to do the same, mostly because they did not know what else to do.
6d. What Participants Learned
Fiddling with the phone has become one of the most common “social traits” today.
The participants felt much more confident not just about making conversations in public, but also learning the decency of leaving their phones asides when in a public place.
Participants learned how much they were missing out by not studying others’ body language, or maintaining a proper body language and eye contact when talking to others. Yet another participant defined the whole experiment as “healthy”. You tend not to have a more healthy sleep pattern, or eat without getting distracted when you have a cellphone with you.
Constantly straining eyes and fingers can also be a deterrent to a healthy lifestyle.
There are so many aspects of unhealthiness associated with cell phones that we neglect.
For example, when using earphones, we neglect the warning for the maximum voice levels. We also remain in close contact with cell phones without considering their radiation related hazards.
Last but not the least: we forget the risks when using cell phones while driving or jaywalking. This may pose dangers not just to us, but also to people around us.
Conclusions of the Study
Let’s look at a few interesting observations in the study and their implications.
The study claims that people and their phones have become inseparable. It is like people have formed a whole new world and whole new identities surrounding their phones where they are more comfortable than in real lives.
Phone addiction therefore, has become a serious concern to mankind.
The study also suggests that the effects of damaged attention spans are reversible. That is, with the help of a little training, all the damage caused to us by using cellphones in the worst possible case of dependency on them, can be undone.
The basic features of phones, such as calling and texting, were found to cause more anxiety when made unavailable than any additional or fancy features.
People were of course, frustrated when they could not use maps or web searches, etc… but this was lesser when compared to the anxiety they experienced when they could not make an important call or send an urgent message.
The participants also showed positive responses to the study, saying that they benefited in a lot of ways.
Not only did they save up on electricity and phone bills, but they also got to experience a whole new world without smartphones.
They felt independent in this world, where they could interact with others, do their own work without a virtual assistant or feel the need to “report” their actions on social media or the likes.