Contemporary smartphone behaviour
Contemplate this scene in a restaurant in the heart of any international city. Two couples seated near to each other. The first couple is deep in conversation, highly engaged and enjoying the delights of the fine food and wine. The second couple sits silent, without eye contact, looking down and away from each other. They’re distracted, disconnected and anti-social.
Couple one is in their fifties and their smartphones are on silent and in their pockets. Couple two is in their twenties and they have a symbiotic relationship with their smartphones. Some symbiotic relationships are obligate, meaning that both symbionts entirely depend on each other for survival. This appears to be the reality for the majority of contemporary smartphone users.
For many, smartphone behaviours have become obsessive, anti-social and even dysfunctional. So much so that some psychologists are currently researching formal diagnoses and treatment options. Somewhat surprisingly, mostly we’re in denial about this obsession. So here are a few extreme examples of dysfunctional smartphone behaviours. And if you don’t think they’re extreme then you quite possibly are in denial!
iTWire reported recent research showing “one in ten Australians have used their mobile phone while having sex to either text, go on social media or take a call from their boss, family or friend. In the 25 to 34 age group, the figure is as high as one in five.”
Seriously! 20% of young Australians admit having used their mobile phone during sex!
Meanwhile in Britain, 62% of women and 48% of men have admitted to checking their mobile phones during sex!
The 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey found more than 50% acknowledged they still text while driving, despite the fact that this is up to six times more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol.
Ofcom, Britain’s telecommunications regulator, says that a startling 60% of teenagers who use smartphones describe themselves as “highly addicted” to their devices. So do 37% of adults.
If you’ve felt your phone vibrate, only to reach for it and discover that it wasn’t, you aren’t alone. In a 2012 study, researchers found that Phantom Vibration Syndrome is a phenomenon experienced by a large portion of young adults approximately once every two weeks.
Researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany have created “Menthal” – an app to tell you how much time your smartphone takes up and on what. Psychologist Christian Montag hopes it will help us deal with what he calls ‘a modern plague‘.
In 2013, National Sleep Foundation research showed that more than half of 1,500 respondents in the U.S., Canada and U.K., and two-thirds in Japan, used a smart device in the hour before bed. Engaging the brain with information that’s exciting or provocative can trigger emotional and other hormonal responses, including the release of adrenalin. Smartphones significantly disturb sleep when used shortly before bed. Interestingly this might help explain the data on smartphone use during sex.
In fact, our obsessive smart device mediated existence is even beginning to seem dystopian in nature. “A dystopia is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening…. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization…” In other words we’re not enjoying our lives or the richness of each moment because we’re too obsessed with our so-called smart devices.
The final word
Chris Robinson, frontman of the Black Crowes once said, “As a band we’ve been trying to string together these moments, the kind of moments I’ve had as a music fan that have blown my mind. That’s not happening when you’re texting or checking your f***ing fantasy league stats. I personally think you should be too high to operate a machine at our concerts.” I think he meant high on life!