Phone addiction not so smart

Published 11:28 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014

By Tom Purcell


Get this: People are becoming addicted to their smartphones.
According to a report from Flurry Analytics, says The Washington Post’s Style Blog, the average mobile consumer checks his phone 150 times a day. A “mobile addict” is defined as someone who launches apps more than 60 times a day — 10 times as often as the average smartphone user.
The number of addicts is growing rapidly. Flurry Analytics said there were 79 million mobile addicts in March 2013. By March 2014, the number had soared to 176 million. Mobile addicts are growing at a rate five times that of regular users.
And that is causing many people a bit of grief.
A smartphone, for those of you over 55, is a cellphone that is also a mini-computer. It allows people to search the web, run a variety of applications and text (the act of pressing both thumbs against a miniature keypad to bastardize the English language).
According to Psychology Today, “Many suffer from anxiety if they lose their phone, even if only for a few minutes. We rely on it to do everything from saying ‘I love you’ to breaking up, from checking bank balances to investing, from sharing photos of the grandchild to sexting. We can carry out a plethora of daily tasks, right from the palm of our hand.”
So important have smartphones become, psychologists have coined a name for the fear of being without them: nomophobia.
Psychology Today cites a list of symptoms: You are anxious whenever your phone is not in your possession. You constantly check your phone for texts and feel compelled to respond immediately. You are halfway to the store, realize you forgot your phone and turn around to go get it.
Some people are suffering from phantom cellphone vibration. This is when they think their phone is vibrating and it turns out to be a false alarm.
Haven’t we all encountered a person who is sitting right across from us, but is so focused on checking Facebook or texting friends, he or she doesn’t hear a word you say?
Don’t get me wrong — technology has brought about awesome improvements to my life. I have quick and easy access to tremendous amounts of information. Thanks to my computer and smartphone, I’m able to make a good living from my home.
But as we continue to gain mastery over our physical world, maybe we need to refocus on our emotional and spiritual worlds.
I think about the way my grandfather lived in the 1920s and ‘30s. Houses were close together then. Large porches were built on the front, and people sat out at night and talked. On Saturdays, my grandfather and his sisters strolled over to their mother’s house. They played cards, sang and told stories.
But today, we shut ourselves inside air-conditioned homes. Our garages are in the front and our porches are hidden in the back. Heck, many neighbors in transient neighborhoods don’t know each other or even say “hello.”
And thanks to our smartphones, we further isolate ourselves in the vacuum of cyberspace — communicating electronically with cyberfriends far more often than we do in person.
The Style Blog summarized the problems of smartphone addiction with a quote from Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows.”
“The smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts.”
Technological innovation is a wonderful thing, but we just need to keep an eye on it before it allows us to become dull, detached and less able to enjoy genuine interaction with our fellow human beings.
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated.

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