Do you ever feel dependent on your smartphone? If so, you're by no means alone. With instant access to text messages, emails, social media, games and practically everything else we could want, our obsession with smartphones is starting to resemble an addiction. People use 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 describe this behavior as addictive?
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. Psychology Today also recently reported that smartphone usage may be contributing to a state of existence in which human communication is suffering. Those who constantly look to their smartphones for stimulation and connectedness may eventually lose their skills in face-to-face interactions.
Other studies have found that smartphone users exhibit signs of under stimulation and boredom when separated from their phones. 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.
Regardless of whether we label this behavior as addictive, psychologists suggest that we at least 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 to 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.
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