For my Computers course, my fellow students and I were asked to attempt the unthinkable; we were asked to try to take a breather from technology. When I read the instructions that asked us to start with an hour of technology-free time and see how long we could last, a few thoughts ran through my mind. No TV? No problem…at least not until 9:00 pm when Big Brother comes on. No radio? It’s fine, I like the sound of my own thoughts. No computer? Okay…a little trickier but I still have my iPhone. Wait…
I want to talk to you today about our attachment, as a society, to our electronic devices. I’m sure you’ve heard all about smartphone addictions and how dangerous to society technology is becoming. I’m sure some people even relish in the idea of taking a break from technology, from all the vibrating, the beeps, and the ringing.
I, however, do not.
Before I move on to tell you how this assignment went for me, I want to talk to you about iPhone addiction. Pull up a seat, make yourself comfy and let’s have a heart-to-heart.
I’m about to throw out some numbers to you to illustrate the increasing enormity of the situation at hand: iPhone addiction. Now, the study I found talks exclusively about iPhones, but who can say that the data for other smartphones isn’t similar; I mean, have you seen Samsung’s new Galaxy SIII!? That device has to have some pretty serious addicts letting it sleep beside them in bed (you guys do that too, right?).
Okay, back to the study. Out of 200 participants:
- only 6% claimed they were not at all addicted to their devices;
- 85% use their iPhone as a watch, while 89% use it as an alarm clock;
- 75% sleep with their iPhone next to them in bed;
- 41% said that losing their iPhone would be a “tragedy”;
- 32% of people who didn’t admit to feeling “completely addicted” worry that they are on their way to becoming addicted.
Modern Day Phobias
I heard about something this week called nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia), which in simple terms means the fear of being out of contact with your mobile phone. You know, I’ve always prided myself on having a short list of phobias, and by short list, I really mean only one: arachnophobia (c’mon, they have 8 legs for crying out loud). Now I know I have to admit to being a nomophobe as well. I am willing to bet some of you are too.
Here are some warning signs:
- The inability to turn your phone off…ever
- Obsessively checking for missed calls, emails and/or texts
Constantly recharging your battery
- The inability to go into the bathroom without your phone
Uhhh…check, check, check aaaaaaaaaaaaand check!
…just kidding about the bathroom one by the way (no I’m not).
And…Back To The Assignment
So I decided, for no particular reason, to attempt to take a break from technology this past Thursday. On Wednesday night, I gave myself the ol’ pep talk, telling myself I was strong and could handle a break. For the assignment, we were advised to take notes, which I will provide below for you. A feelings journal, if you will.
Wednesday 1100pm: Doing final checks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for the night. I warned my boyfriend that communication might be scarce if I succeed at this crazy feat. Already feeling anxious…expectations are low.
Thursday 0900: Woke up, automatically pressed the Home button on iPhone to check the time. FAIL! I really want to relax in bed and check Facebook and read the news on my phone. I’m feeling a tad put out by this ridiculous idea. Time to move away from the iPhone and look for some coffee…
Thursday 1000: I kept busy for the past hour by reading Game of Thrones: A Clash of Kings (a series you must read!) and getting ready for the day. I survived another hour, but I don’t want to stay away anymore.
Thursday 1130: My willpower is faltering. OH I have a text! I want to answer it…screw it, I give up.
Seriously, that’s it. All I could handle away from my iPhone today was 2.5 hours, unless you count the time I was asleep (I wouldn’t either). And guess what – I’m not ashamed.
I Have a Relationship With My iPhone
Some people call what I (and other nomophobes) feel towards my iPhone an addiction. I disagree, and I’m not alone. A study was done to see if the feelings we experience when separated from our iPhones are similar to a junkie separated from drugs, or if it’s something more. In this study, when the 16 participants heard or saw a ringing or vibrating iPhone, a part of the brain called the insular cortex was activated. This insular cortex is the same part of the brain that responds to the presence or proximity of a loved one.
Sooooooooooooo dear friends, what this study is saying is that the subjects tested did not react the way an addict would react; instead, they reacted with love.
Still though, that doesn’t seem healthy.
Okay, I see where you’re coming from, but hold up for a minute. Of course there are going to be negative aspects to a growing dependency on an electronic device. You know what I’m talking about, the obvious things we hear about like people not socializing or communicating anymore, or students getting poor grades in school, or texting and driving. I too have to work on not holding my iPhone when out for dinner with my boyfriend. There are positive aspects too though.
So an iPhone “Addiction” Isn’t All Bad?
Stanford University Professor Tanya Luhrmann doesn’t agree that iPhone dependency is entirely negative; in fact, some people are more productive when they have access to an iPhone. I would agree; just some of the features I rely on my iPhone for on a daily basis include (but are not limited to):
- Camera/photo editing
- Alarm clock
- To-do List
- Online banking
I think what it really all boils down to is a little thing called moderation. Just like you can’t eat pizza all day every day (I’m not preaching, I’m just saying what I’ve heard), it’s also (apparently) unhealthy to spend all your time on your phone. And sure, we should all spend more time socializing face-to-face rather than through FaceTime, just like we should be outside running through flowery meadows rather than playing Temple Run (so fun by the way). Just knowing that I have an amazing multi-purpose device in my pocket though makes me more likely to go outside and do things, because my iPhone opens doors for me that I may not have had access to otherwise.
In fact, that study that we talked about earlier, the one that revealed some pretty scary things about iPhone users had some slightly more positive numbers too:
- 70% of iPhone users felt more organized;
- 54% of iPhone users felt more productive;
- 74% of iPhone users just felt “cool” (hey, I’m not here to discuss self-esteem issues).
And no, Apple is not paying me to say these things.
A Final Thought on the Assignment
Okay, so attempting this assignment on a weekday probably wasn’t my smartest move. I have a busy weekend ahead, so I’m willing to bet that it will be much easier to be away from technology then. I could certainly try this dangerous feat again then to see if I can handle it, but to be honest I just don’t want to.
Besides, why fix what ain’t broke?