Are you addicted to your Smartphone? Duh... who isn’t? Face it, in our culture just about everyone seems to be addicted to their Smartphone. Watch people while they are driving, walking down the street, and standing in line anywhere and you’ll see the addiction. This week’s New Yorker offered a wonderful cartoon depicting a wedding scene where the bride, groom, best man, and maid of honor were all on their Smartphones while the cleric was trying to get the couple to pay attention enough to say “I do”.
I have to admit that although I don’t consider myself very techno-philic, getting one of these devices less than a year ago, I find myself turning to it often when I have a moment to spare waiting in line and so forth.
So what is it about these devices that are so compelling and addictive? There are many variable to consider but having a powerful computer at your fingertips wherever you are located is pretty remarkable. Being able to check your email, news and information updates, sport scores, and so forth is just amazing. But the down side of Smartphone addiction is of great concern.
Most people take needless risks while driving to use their Smartphones. We have all likely seen car accidents or at least close calls due to Smartphone related distractions. Additionally, spontaneous conversations are less likely when everyone is attending to their Smartphones rather than to each other. For example, here at Santa Clara University, as soon as class gets out or during a class break everyone turns immediately to their Smartphone. I’m sure that this is true on just about all college campuses.
While quality research will take some years to conduct I would speculate that we are creating a cohort of people who are addicted to these devices. This addiction may have unintended consequences such as nurturing a culture where people are more impatient, impulsive, and less able to effectively communicate with others in a face-to-face manner. Plus, cognitive science research clearly has demonstrated that we are not very good at multi-tasking at all but rather we just shift attention back and forth which can be dangerous in many situations. Only time and good research will tell but there are likely to be many negative unintended consequences for Smartphone use and addiction.
So, what should we do about it? Smartphones are probably here to stay and there are certainly many advantages to having them. Furthermore, we now live in a society where it is hard to get along without them. But we might be mindful of the negative consequences of Smartphone use and take some critical precautions. These might include turning them off or putting them out of reach while we are driving for example. Certainly keeping them out of the operating room, car, bedroom, and so forth might be a first step.
So, what do you think? Are you addicted to your Smartphone? If so, what can you do about it?
Copyright 2013 by Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., ABPP