“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
So what are we claiming society is addicted to today? Drugs? Gambling? Sex? Nope. iPhones.
Admit it. If you’re not already reading this off your iPhone (or your Samsung Galaxy, or your HTC Hero), you’re now itching to carry out that all too familiar act of pressing its lovely little button, swiping your finger across its beautiful screen and bringing it to life for reasons you can’t explain. The world can survive without you for 5 minutes, so why the obsessive need to constantly check up on it?
Here’s a little experiment for you, see if you can read this post all the way to the end without waking your phone up (or even looking at it) once. Go on, I dare you.
We have a lot to thank Martin Cooper for and while we might laugh now at his brick that could make the occasional wireless call, it was truly the beginning of a revolution.
More than 3 billion people worldwide own cell phones now compared with only 300,000 in 1984 but at what point did we start becoming really obsessed? Phones with functions beyond the standard calling and texting are nothing new these days. Instead, it’s the new breed of super Smartphones that are fighting for world domination and Apple is without a doubt, the heavyweight champion (although there are a number of pesky Android devices currently nipping at the heels of the iPhone behemoth).
Those black shirts at Apple and their brilliant minds have drastically changed our expectations of what features are deemed necessary for a mobile phone, and have created a device with so many functions that it truly is a wonder we can put them down for any length of time at all.
iPhones are taking over the world and while they can help us in so many ways, there must be drawbacks to owning a device which one can become so easily attached to.
So, feeling a little uneasy about how much time you’re spending with your iPhone? Here are the 5 areas of your life your iPhone has most likely already claimed.
•1) Relationships vs. your iPhone
Picture this. You’re in a restaurant in Hong Kong for whichever meal, you sit down, look around and slowly realize you can’t see anyone’s face. Why? Because they’re all staring down at their iPhones. This seems to be perfectly acceptable in the city and it seems as if Hong Kong is not alone.
In the USA someone was clearly getting tired of the attention their dinner companions were paying to their flatscreens and came up with a solution by combining two things us humans love – competition and the chance of a free meal. Simply known as “The Phone Stacking Game” or the more eloquent “Don’t Be a Dick During Meals” game, participants must all stack their devices on the table and the first one to give in to temptation (but…this meal looks delicious! Please just let me Instagram it?!) has to pick up the bill. Sounds easy you say? Sure, if you can convince your friends to even let go of their phones in the first place.
But seriously, it’s not just meal times iPhones are disrupting, relationships in general are being affected in numerous ways. How many of you come home and just talk to your flatmate/partner face to face without doing something on your phone at the same time?
In fact, how many of you are actually socially interacting via your phone with the person who is sat right beside you. Drawsomething, Facebook, Words with friends – the opportunities are endless, who needs actual conversation!
People are investing more time in their relationship with their iPhone than they are with each other and researchers have been trying to discover just how obsessed people have become. One study asked participants whether they would rather give up their phone for a week over other valued necessities. Shown in a handy pictograph here, the high percentage of those willing to give up alcohol and chocolate is understandable (I have an iPhone too you know) but the fact that 22% could go without brushing their teeth rather than not having their smartphone with them is pretty shocking.
What do results like this say about our society today? Humans are social beings and if the iPhone can disrupt something as basic as our social interactions, what other impacts could they have?
•2) Performance vs. iPhone
Psychologically speaking, multitasking just doesn’t work; studies have shown that the more sensory input your brain has, the more it is going to struggle to focus on the task in hand. Yet some people (younger folk especially) seem to think they are immune to this and carry out numerous tasks whilst running several apps on their iPhone at the same time. Sure this is fine when lounging at home, but this much distraction leads to disorganized thinking and there is no way this can positively affect our performance levels in other key areas.
We all know how irritating it is to be stuck walking behind someone who’s staring down at their iPhone instead of looking ahead but at least it’s not that dangerous (minus the embarrassing risk of walking into a sign post). Driving on the other hand, is one area in particular where performance levels are crucial to maintain. Any kind of mobile phone brings risks to a driver but the iPhone with its savvy touch screen poses new threats.
Texting is obviously the biggest driving distraction and studies have shown that texting whist driving will decrease reaction times by 35% and steering capabilities can dramatically drop by 91%. It is therefore no surprise that the driving age group with the most phone-related incidents occur in the 16-20 years range, coincidently the range with the largest texting demographic.
Take these stats, combine them with a super socially active device with a touchscreen and you’re not exactly going to get positive results.
So next time you’re stuck at a traffic light and your phone is calling out to you (yes, even if its facebook related) maybe you should think twice before giving in to temptation.
•3) Development vs. iPhone
It is pretty concerning to see how many adults have succumbed to the iPhone’s mysterious powers but at least they are aware of how life used to be prior to the invasion. What happens when you’re one of (or a parent of) the many who are growing up surrounded by such devices?
Researchers are trying to carry out studies to discover results to questions such as these however (as with most studies in this field) by the time approval and funding has all been sorted, the piece of technology has most likely become obsolete and the results rendered almost useless.
Still, the results that are emerging are worth paying attention to. In one study, 20 babies aged between 14 and 20 months were each handed a BlackBerry and almost as soon as the babies had hold of the phones, they were swiping their chubby fingers across the screens mimicking an action that up until recently, no baby would have never known how to do. If even babies are joining the iPhone obsession, what’s happening to the older kids?
“Good things come to those who wait” is a phrase lost on the youth of today, and who could blame them. Technology in general has the danger of teaching the younger generation to expect immediate fulfillment in life, but the iPhone takes this one step further. Children are growing up learning that if you want to buy new music now, you can. If you want to watch the latest blockbuster movie now, you can. While instant gratification is awesome, it can’t exactly be reinforcing good ol’ wholesome life values.
Not long ago, we were concerned that kids weren’t spending enough time outside but it appears we have a new concern on our hands now. A study in the States discovered teens in particular, are no longer satisfied with regular forms of technology and were experiencing low heart rate and brain stimulation whilst engaging in other activities, unless they had their iPhones on them at all times. But what exactly is it that makes the iPhone so desirable across the generations?
•4) Attachment vs. iPhone
All these iPhone and smart phone related obsessive behaviors are bringing about a whole new bundle of terminologies and ‘conditions’.
CPC or Compulsive Phone Checking refers to the almost constant need to touch your phone, just to know it’s still there. Similar to a drug addiction, users fuel the mental aspect of their addiction by using their phones but they satisfy the physical need by simply holding, touching or looking at their phones.
Normally, it’s a positive thing when you get some sort of mail or notification, so your brain likes this and wants more, resulting in the constant checking in hope of feeling good again.
IAD – iPhone Addiction Disorder – a term coined by two psychiatrists in Taiwan sounds a bit extreme but may have come about with good reason. There’s been a couple of cases in Taiwan which lead to the creation of this term but the most shocking has to be the case of one high schooler who was diagnosed after he required hospitalization in a psychiatric ward as he was engaging with his device all hours of the day and was eventually physically unable to part from his iPhone.
While many of us can’t see our little obsessions ever getting that bad, it just shows that it’s real and can happen.
Jan Chipchase – a researcher for Nokia (yes, Nokia. Remember them?) made some very good points to explain why we obsess over the mobile phone. He asked a simple question – out of everything you own, what do you take with you upon walking out the door? The top 3 universal answers across gender, culture and age were keys, money and phones. Keys provide shelter/warmth and money enables us to purchase food/sustenance but phones? Phones provide connection. Connection to our loved ones is crucial for our survival and the fact that phones allow us to connect to them whenever and wherever we want at our convenience, is naturally going to rank them as a prized possession. It also means that when they run out of batteries or are lost, we can actually feel like our survival is threatened (basic instincts, they’re everywhere).
It’s no wonder then that iPhones are so easy to become attached to as they fulfill our essential need to connect but take this so much further and allow us to connect on multiple levels. Which probably explains why when faced with iPhone loss, the threat to survival is especially heightened. Some seem to experience these anxiety levels a tad more than others.
One recent study commissioned by a UK government project investigated phone related anxiety further and brought about several points of interest. It appears that iPhone users don’t just see their phone as a phone, they see it as an actual part of their identity or even as an extension as themselves. Researchers coined the term Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia) – the fear of being without a mobile phone after observing 85% of mobile phone users in Great Britain admitted anxiety when their phone either ran out of battery/signal or was lost all together.
While some argue phobia might be an extreme word to use, it shouldn’t be completely dismissed. Sleep should be the one time we leave our phones alone, yet 75% of participants admitted to dozing off to the land of nod with their iPhone tucked up in bed beside them. And it appears some of you may literally be tucking your phone into bed. Samples from other studies are reporting iPhone users attributing human characteristics to their iPhones; giving them names, treating them differently to their other electronics (poor iPods) and not even letting their friends touch their phone (told you Stacking could be a challenge).
So, it’s been established that people really like their iPhones and how heart wrenching it can be to lose one (I won’t judge you if you’ve shed a tear after iPhone loss) but just how far would you go to get yours back? Jezebel Blogger Cassie Murdoch recounts a hilarious tale of retrieving her iPhone from the depths of an airplane toilet. Yup, her hand, in a toilet (now I’m judging). Moving on…
•5)iPhones and your health
So our last area of concern is in the general health department. It’s not difficult to imagine some of the health issues that people are expressing with the extensive use of iPhones. Obviously there will always be the radiation thing with any phone, and considering the iPhone scores pretty well on the scale (i.e. if you’re phone is going to damage your brain, it might as well be an iPhone) we don’t need to worry so much about this factor. Just try not to keep your phone too close to your reproductive organs for too long and you should be perfectly fine on the radiation front.
But here’s something you may not associate with your phone very often. Germs. That’s right; one huge negative to owning a touch screen device is the constant ferrying of germs from surface to surface. If you take the amount of time you spend of your iPhone and factor in how many other people may use it then have a think about how many times you touch your face, or the kind of places you take your phone in to, you’re going to be feeling pretty gross right about now. And this doesn’t even take into account the microbes that your phone may be picking up when you’re surfing the web while on the toilet (a decidedly 21st century trend); are you touching your phone after wiping but haven’t washed your hands? Congrats, you’ve just transferred that awesome fecal matter to a device which you’re probably going to hold close to your face – Conjunctivitis (pink eye) probably isn’t too far away.
How much money do you spend making your phone look good, making sure it’s nice and protected from the evil outside world? Or how much does your data plan cost you each month? Some iPhone users are so intent on maintaining constant connection that they are actually paying more for their phone bills than they are for their electricity. Furthermore, it appears some people have more interest in investing in the health of their iPhone than they do in their own. Yes there may be an estimated 7000 health related apps available in the iTunes store and that really is something- if you actually use them. It would be interesting to compare the number of health apps downloaded with the amount of times they are actually used. But alas, little research has been carried out in this area yet so you’re just going to have to download Runkeeper, go out for a jog and prove me wrong… for now.
So, does your iPhone know more about you than your loved ones? Is its face the last and first thing you see before and after you wake up? Maybe you need to have some time apart, put things on hold. Or maybe, everything is just getting over analysed and iphones are just fantastic. Either way, it couldn’t hurt to try and enjoy a meal or a movie without reaching for your iphone the whole time. Speaking of which, did you manage to make it through this post without doing just that? Personally, I could say I managed to write this whole thing without even looking at my iphone once. But I would be lying.