The smartphone has become the fastest-selling gadget in history, the defining technology of the first part of the 21st century. With this product, Apple has become the most valuable company on earth. Latest reports indicate that by 2020 there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users, led by huge growth in new markets. This means that about 70-80 % of the world’s population will be using smartphones in five years. (1)
Smartphones are transforming society and enriching lives. Their dominance derives from their small size and wireless connectivity. The processing power of yesterday’s supercomputers is handheld and applied to ordinary human interactions. (2)
Anyone with a current model smartphone can handle almost all of their at-home or work tasks without needing anything else. (3) Usage is spreading everywhere at extraordinary speed.
Smartphones can do countless things – real-time talk and video, text conversations, Internet browsing, maps and travel directions, traffic warnings, photos and video, tracking health and exercise.
The combination of size and connectivity means that knowledge can be shared in ways that are both professional and personal. Smartphones can recommend career changes; arrange dates online; book appointments; and link customers with available taxis. The variety of applications is growing exponentially.
Smartphones have penetrated every aspect of daily life. The average American is occupied with a smart phone for several hours every day.
Nearly 80% of smartphone-owners check messages, news or other services within 15 minutes of being awake. Many people check their phones at dinner, in the bathroom, while driving, at the movies and in bed. About 10% even admit to having checked messages during sex. (4)
- 84% say they cannot go a single day without their smartphone.
- 67% check regularly for missed calls, emails, messages and text-alerts. Some check every few minutes.
- 88% use mobile devices as a second screen, even while watching TV.
- Almost 50% sleep with their smartphone next to their bed because they want to make sure they don’t miss any calls or alerts.
Reclaiming Live Conversation
MIT technology professor and media scholar Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for thirty years. In her new book, Reclaiming Conversation, she investigates the troubling consequences of smartphone addiction. (5)
Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Sherry Turkle maintains that conversation is the cornerstone for social life. It builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity. It’s the most human – and humanizing – thing that people do. But today, the absence of live conversations is noticeable everywhere. The capacity for empathy and relationship suffers.
People don’t have to look, talk or listen – they escape into their smartphone. This undermines relationships, creativity, and productivity. The dinner table falls silent as people “check” their phones. Parents compete with phones for their kids’ attention. It’s increasingly difficult to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones.
In another book, “Alone Together”, Sherry Turkle explores what people are looking for in a world of electronic companions and social networking tools. She explores the power of new tools and toys to dramatically alter social lives, insisting that the next generation must chart the path between isolation and connectivity. (6)
Since the year 2000, because of the popularity of smartphones that allow people to communicate faster and easier, texting has become a social norm. Today, texting while driving is considered to be the cause of life-threatening accidents due to driver distraction. It is involved in about 28% of all car accidents in the US and this is now the top cause of death among teenagers. (7)
According to a report from the National Safety Council, there are about 1.6 million crashes in the US every year involving cell phone use, which causes 500,000 injuries and 6,000 fatalities. In many places texting while driving has become illegal.
Facebook is widely used across the world, with a billion users. For millions, it has become a large part of their life and they spend a lot of time engaging in activities such as updating statuses, posting photos, inserting comments and ‘liking’ others’ posts. With the availability of smartphones anywhere, the number and frequency of posts has increased dramatically. Opinions are typically shared online, typically only with “followers” who agree, which avoids real conflicts and solutions. (8)
Everywhere, the absence of live conversations is noticeable. Some people spend hours on Facebook every day, so that it starts interfering with their lives and has become detrimental to daily functioning at home, work or school.
This topic has generated discussions among psychologists, journalists, and bloggers. Researchers have coined the term "Facebook addiction" to describe people with an unhealthy desire to spend hours checking social networking sites. A new study found that the brains of people who report compulsive urges to use social networking sites show some brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts. (9)
Several studies suggest that Facebook and other social networking sites have a profound impact on people. It can hurt a person’s body image, allow people to obsess over failed relationships and even lead some people to fall into depression. Many feel left out after seeing pictures of friends at parties, or having dinner together. It’s been found that specific patterns of Internet use can generate a greater propensity to experience symptoms of depression. (10)
Many people become isolated, intimidated, disconnected and constantly distracted. Desperately seeking emotional stimulation, they switch quickly between websites, which reflects a decreased ability to experience emotions. Similarly, excessive emailing and chatting may signify a relative lack of strong face-to-face relationships. Lonely people strive to maintain contact either with faraway friends or people just met online.
People who are habitually looking at smartphones are usually lonely. There may be other family members around, but they tend not to engage. Even when talking with friends online, there is a strange kind of loneliness that arises out of peer pressure, the loss of ability to think differently. This gives a whole new meaning to the term “alone in the crowd”.
A significant positive relationship has been found between narcissism and addiction to smartphones. A key indication of this is excessive interest or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance, and an obsession with taking selfies and posting them on social media.
Narcissistic people think that every single thing that arrives on their smartphone is somehow connected to them. It’s almost as if they start to become incapable of processing someone else’s life because they are so preoccupied with their own. They resort more and more to Facebook, text and email communications because that allows them to be the best version of themselves, which is very appealing. (11)
Neck muscles, in their proper position, are designed to support the weight of a head, about 10 to 12 pounds. When looking down at a screen at a 60-degree angle, about 60 lbs. (27 kg) of pressure is put on the cervical spine – the area right above the shoulders.
As smartphones and handheld tablets are becoming more common, increasingly people are being diagnosed with occipital neuralgia. Eventually, the pressure does damage to the nerves in the back of the neck. This can end up with shooting pain in the scalp and permanent damage that may only be undone through surgery.
Besides muscle pain, and ailment termed text-neck can cause a host of other health issues. Sitting in a slumped position restricts the ability of lungs to expand, impairing lung capacity. Inhaling less oxygen means the heart needs to pump harder to distribute more oxygen-carrying blood through the body. (12)
Switch it off!
It’s important to manage your smartphone use. (13) Everyone needs to be reminded: Technology has a power-off button. The wisest use it regularly. (14) Here are 5 reasons why it helps to switch off:
- Removes unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness.
- Combats the fear of missing out.
- Peace and solitude are easier to find.
- Life is still about flesh, blood, and eye contact.
- Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you.
Please share our discussion by responding to these questions directly via the blog. If you prefer, send me an email and I’ll insert your comments.
- Do you check texts and emails all the time? How many times a day?
- Do you ever switch your phone off? At night? While on holiday?
- Do you get into a panic when you forget to bring your phone?
- Are you addicted to constant smartphone viewing?
- Do you check your phone while in company? Sneak a peek?
- When conversations don’t interest you, do you look at your phone?
- Do you post on Facebook? How many times do you post or look, per week?
- Do you consider yourself lonely? Are you an introvert?
- Do you often take selfies? What do you do with them? Do you post them on Facebook?
- Do you have any neck strain, or shoulder problems?
- Would you like to switch off your phone? When can/will you do that?
- Smart Phones Spreading Faster than Any Technology in History: http://goo.gl/95RPtk
- Usage and Attitudes Toward Smartphones: http://goo.gl/zm9KTj
- In Two Years a Smartphone Could Be Your Only Computer: http://goo.gl/4DQQPK
- Economist – Planet of the phones: http://goo.gl/CItT3z
- Sherry Turkle book - Reclaiming Conversation: http://goo.gl/QCguF0
- Sherry Turkle book - Alone Together: http://goo.gl/p6qI4W
- Cellphone use causes over 1 in 4 car accidents: http://goo.gl/oFB72Q
- Facebook Addiction - New Psychological Scale: http://goo.gl/zoKucZ
- What Facebook Addiction Looks Like in the Brain: http://goo.gl/cjVgHi
- What Internet Habits Say about Mental Health: http://goo.gl/ekoUZJ
- What does smartphone addiction actually looks like: https://goo.gl/EUeZZv
- Smartphones causing permanent health problems in chronic users: http://goo.gl/4QZivQ
- Addicted to Your Smartphone? Here's What to Do: http://goo.gl/y0ZQx1
- Reasons to Unplug and Find Space: http://goo.gl/03j22F
Carlsbad, CA. USA
8 October 2015