“IS SMARTPHONE ADDICTION
MAKING US DUMMER?”
(yes…that’s a deliberate typo)
“These days we have Smartphones, Smart-cars, Smartboards, Smart everything…
but consider this: if the technology is getting smarter,
does that mean humans are getting dumber?”
“Internet addiction appears to be a common disorder that merits inclusion in the DSM-V [The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition],” suggested an editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry
[Ref: In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts]
In a recent article in Psychology Today, both internet gaming disorder and smart phonesare another major new addiction focus.
Most people are now, on average, spending 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones.
New York psychotherapist Nancy Colier reports that “most people now check their smartphones 150 times per day, or every six minutes.
Other research indicates that individuals ‘touch’ their phones (‘touch’ meaning every tap, type, swipe and click) over 2700 times a day…
Young adults are now sending an average of 110 text per day…
And, 46% of smartphone users now say their devices are something they ‘couldn’t live without’
The rise of the machines….
The number of mobile devices operating worldwide is expected to reach 17.72 billion by 2024 – an increase of 3.7 billion devices compared to 2020
There are now 4 billion smartphone users globally
To give you an idea of market penetration 83% of the United Kingdoms population now has a smartphone, closely followed by the Netherlands, Sweden,
Germany and then the USA all between 77-79%.
Australia comes in at Number 10 at 68.6%.
In my last post, subtly titled F*** Your Coffee Order, I clumsily attempted to illustrate how we’re now hyper-exposed to a gluttony of choice…so much so that, in my opinion, it’s eroding our ‘NOWBEING’…by which I mean, our ability to be to more present-minded, to actually think consciously more often, in our day to day.
So this got me thinking…what other all-consuming distractions are eroding our NOWBEING…?
How much of our lives are we allowing to pass us by due to our insatiable-addiction to distraction?
Le Topic Du Jour on our ‘Insatiable-addictions’ – ‘Smartphones’ (and other handheld devices)
I was prompted to broach this subject (again) after watching the rather excellent Apple TV documentary “The World’s A Little Blurry”, a film showcasing the prodigiously super-talented 17 year old (at the time of filming) singer/writer/producer/director Billie Eilish…what a remarkable human!
In a scene from one of her live concerts, there’s thousands and thousands of concert goers all “watching” the concert via their smartphone devices.
And when I say ‘all’, I wouldn’t be exaggerating saying at least 90% of the audience, with necks craned-upwards, had their smartphone raised above their heads filming the live experience.
I thought…how odd?
Another ongoing observation which motivated this topic, something which I’m sure we’re all conscious of, is the amount of times smartphones are present & used in our day to day…in fact phones are so present, that we’re seemingly completely unable to leave the house without them…let me rephrase…we seem completely unable to not have our phones, at best, in our hand, or at worst, within easy reach.
Exercising, training, cooking, eating, sleeping, sexing, meetings, socialising, watching TV, going to the movies, going to the beach, sitting at traffic, going for a coffee etc all now seem to require that we’re escorted by our BFF smartphone.
I spend the first 3-4 hours of my day outdoors – cycling, running, walking – so I decided to a little research of my own, to see how many smartphones were taking their owners out walkies
Case Study 1:
Cycling at 6am, I decided to count the first 50 people I passed and see how many of them had a phone in their hand…I counted 39….As tempted as I was, It didn’t seem appropriate to frisk individuals to check pockets
Lucky I had my phone, this was the sunset this morning…
(Lake Monger, Perth 17/03/21)
Case Study 2:
After the above photo was taken I headed to the coast for coffee. Walked into the cafe and head-counted 33 people – they were either standing waiting for take away orders, or sitting down enjoying their morning cup of Joe.
Every table had a smartphone on it – with at least half of them being completely fixated with what was on their small screen, all the while they mindlessly forked Smashed Avocado into their gobs…seemingly more ‘intent’ in what they were consuming on their phone, rather than what they were eating.
Do you remember what you ate today?
What did it taste like?
How did it make you feel after you ate it?
9 out of the 12 people standing waiting for take away orders had a smartphone in their hands, 6 of which were ensconced with their device. Again this was around 6:30am, and everyone was wearing casual or sporting / leisure attire.
Meanwhile outside in the real world….this was going down.
F***ing overcast again
Are Smartphones Addictive?
The global obsession with smartphones has even been compared to the obesity epidemic. Because, like drugs, gambling or shopping, smartphones provide a very easy and accessible, and now completely publicly acceptable, escape from reality
Humans are, innately prone to distraction
And now with smartphone-usage is at pandemic proportions – is it time to acknowledge that our devices can negatively impact our lives
Looking at the research data of modern day mobile phone usage, it’s hard to imagine what we were doing with all this spare time a few decades back.
Were we addicted to something else before smartphones came on the scene?
Did smartphone usage takeover an existing addiction, or is it a new addiction?
Two sensational books of note that deal with Addiction & Depression (as they’re inherently connected), are Johann Hari’s book ‘Lost Connections”, which I read some years back, and the current book I’m reading, “In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Maté,
In this riveting and compassionate book, Gabor elegantly states “addiction is neither a choice nor primarily a disease, it originates in a human being’s desperate attempt to solve a problem: the problem of emotional pain, of overwhelming stress, of loss of connection, of loss of control, of a deep discomfort with the self. In short, it is a forlorn attempt to solve the problem of human pain. All behaviours of addiction, substance-dependent or not, whether gambling, sex, the internet or cocaine – either soothe pain directly or distract from it.”
Gabor goes onto say, “that the domain of addiction lies where we constantly seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfilment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and as long as we stay hungry ‘ghosts’, we’ll never know.
We haunt our lives without being fully present.”
Should We Be Left Alone To Our Own Devices?
The impact of the usage is staggering to say the least, recent research indicates that device addiction is…
– Reducing the quality of conversations and our connection with others, and ourselves
– Adversely impacting short-term memory and problem solving
– Severely impacting our sleep patterns, which in turns results in heightened negativity, impatience, distress, lessened emotion recovery and increased in accidents and injury & Increased obesity
-And, like above, the correlation between smartphone addiction and depression is alarming
These, are classic signs of addictive dependency.
Gabor says…There is no new disorders here, only new targets for the universal and age-old addiction process, new forms of escape.
[Ref: In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts]
So if he Gabor Maté is correct, and he probably is, the addictions aren’t new, only new targets in terms of ‘new forms of escape‘ are presenting themselves to us…such as mobile phones, internet, social media, porn, abundant-choice & opinion, shopping, advertising, news, news, news…all live-streamed, unadulterated & immediately accessed via our hand held devices.
Are Smartphones Making Us Dumber
Neuroscience research shows that smartphones are making us stupider, less social, more forgetful, more prone to addiction, sleepless and depressed, and poor at navigation – so why are we giving them to kids?
Growing evidence shows that, rather than making us smarter, mobile devices reduce our cognitive ability in measurable ways, says Macquarie neuroscientist Professor Mark Williams
“There’s lots of evidence showing that the information you learn on a digital device, doesn’t get retained very well and isn’t transferred across to the real world,” he says. “You’re also quickly conditioned to attend to lots of attention-grabbing signals, beeps and buzzes, so you jump from one task to the other and you don’t concentrate.”
Not only do smartphones affect our memory and our concentration, research shows they are addictive – to the point where they could be a ‘gateway drug’ making users more vulnerable to other addictions.
Smartphones are also linked to reduced social interaction, inadequate sleep, poor real-world navigation, and depression.
“Given what we know about the effect that smartphones and digital devices have on our brains, it’s scary to see how prolific their use is with children from a very young age,” says Williams.
Smartphones are making us stupid – and may be a ‘gateway drug’
Professor Mark Williams
Macquarie University – Sydney
Smartphones make us prone to addiction
Williams is currently contributing to a large study at Macquarie investigating the relationship between social media addiction, gaming addiction and porn addiction.
What is addiction, really?
It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress.
It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood
– Alice Walker ‘Breaking Down the Wall of Silence’
“All addiction is based on the same craving for a dopamine response, whether it’s drug, gambling, alcohol or phone addiction,” he says. “As the dopamine response drops off, you need to increase the amount you need to get the same result, you want a little bit more next time”. Neurologically, they all look the same.
“We know – there are lots of studies on this – that once we form an addiction to something, we become more vulnerable to other addictions. That’s why there’s concerns around heavy users of more benign, easily-accessed drugs like alcohol and marijuana as there’s some correlation with usage of more physically addictive drugs like heroin, and neurological responses are the same.”
Smartphones make us antisocial
“Collaboration is a buzzword with software companies who are targeting schools to get kids to use these collaboration tools on their iPads – but collaboration decreases when you’re using these devices,” he says. “The more time that kids spend on digital devices, the less empathetic they are, and the less they are able to process and recognise facial expressions, so their ability to actually communicate with each other is decreased.”
Family matters: Adults as much as children can fall victim to smartphones and their negative effects, including poor social interaction.
Smartphones make us forgetful
There’s about 30 years of research showing that people who read something on a screen will remember 10 to 30 per cent less of the material compared to reading the same material on paper.
“We also know that if you learn something on an iPad you are less likely to be able to transfer that to another device or to the real world,” Williams adds.
Smartphones make us sleepless, friendless and depressed
Numerous studies also link smartphone use with sleeplessness and anxiety. “Some other interesting research has shown that the more friends you have on social media, the less friends you are likely to have in real life, the less actual contacts you have and the greater likelihood you have of depression,” says Williams.
A new US study of more than 500,000 adolescents has shown a huge increase in depression over the past five years in adolescent girls. “There is also a direct correlation between suicide and amount of screen use.”
Don’t get me wrong…I looooooove and embrace technology.
But one of the best things I have done over the past 12-24 months is adult myself and instal methods to reduce my exposure to the news, internet, social media, YouTube and…generally picking up my bloody iPhone….it’s a habit that required a constant vigil.
Some of my strategies include:
– Leaving devices in the other room
– Removing apps and notiications
– Only having email, and social media apps on my desktop – which I’d look at very very infrequently. I’ve deleted all social media, email from my iPhone and iPad
– I’ve eliminated all audible notifications from all devices
– Leaving my phone at home as much as possible
– Reducing email clutter – unsubscribing from unwanted e-noise
– Prioritise education over entertainment
My recent case-study activities alerted me to remember this Michael Leunig cartoon (below) from my leaving year high school English exam at, it seem more profoundly relevant now than ever.
How much of our lives are passing us by?
How many sunrises & sunsets are we missing?
How many summers do you have left…and do you want to spend your time staring at a small screen, rather than embracing the visual beauty that surrounds us.
Just by putting your phone down a little more, you have an opportunity to steal-back some time and attention to what is really important…and the only thing that is really important is “now”
Your nowbeing determines your wellbeing
The path is the goal.