By now, we’ve all seen that look of dread in someone’s eyes when they realize they’ve left their smart phone at home. It’s as though they’ve dropped the equivalent of Tolkien’s One Ring down a crevasse. they’re suddenly adrift, powerless without their Precious. Some researchers claim this anxiety is a sign of smart phone addiction, a growing problem in our wired world. Maybe. Or maybe we’re just putting too many eggs in one digital basket.
There’s no doubt that a lot of us have become dependent on our smart phones. In one recent survey, 800 people around the world were asked to rate the stress they would experience if they had to do without their smart phone for a day. As this CBC News video reveals, more than half the respondents said that a day without their phones would be as stressful as their wedding day. As well, 66 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to go a day without their gadgets, while 45 per cent experience anxiety if they don’t have their phones with them.
The phenomenon even has a name: nomophobia, as in no-mobile phobia. But, as shiny and tempting as our smart phones are, it falls short of the mark to say that we’re addicted to the devices themselves. Instead, It’s more accurate to say that we’re addicted to all the things we can do with them.
Not only do we use them as phones, we also use them to see friends in real time with apps like Skype. We do our banking, check the weather and traffic, search for directions, read books, watch TV and movies, and shop. We scribble reminders, make lists, and keep track of our diet and exercise habits. And That’s just scratching the surface.
Now, to put the idea of smart phone addiction into perspective, imagine that You’re getting ready for a typical day but you don’t have a digital gadget. Try making a list of all the different items you’d use instead?items people have been using to manage their busy lives every day for decades without worrying that they might be addicted to them.
There’s the newspaper or TV to check the weather, and the car radio to listen to news and traffic. If You’re running late, you’ll need to find a payphone and call the office. Need to run out and meet a new client? You’ll probably reach for the paper map you keep stashed in the car. At lunch, you might need the phone book to look for restaurants nearby. Then, of course, there’s the calendar on the kitchen wall at home to keep track of appointments. And the board games and books for family time on the weekend.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. All day, every day, we pick up, flip through, scribble on, and chat on dozens of useful items. We never track the collective time spent using those tools, never lump together the hours logged on work and play. Yet somehow, now that we’ve rolled all (or most) of those tools into one compact digital gadget, we forget to look at the number of separate activities we use those smart phones for.
Indeed, It’s as if we’re carrying our calendars, entertainment, home phone, bank, and a dozen other things in our pocket?and then wondering why we spend so much time paying attention to that one device.
Does that excuse people who can’t hold a conversation without constantly checking their screens? No. After all, it would be just as rude to keep checking a paper calendar while You’re chatting with a friend.
But it does mean that we should be careful about labelling our multitude of daily activities an ?addiction? simply because we’ve got the convenience of handling them all on one device. And if you do think You’re addicted . . . well, there’s probably an app for that.
S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.