It’s ok, I’ll be the first to admit it… I’m addicted to my iPhone. That beautiful, shiny, ridiculously intelligent device that I’ve dubbed is the most important item in my possession. I take it everywhere, and I don’t think I’ve been away from my phone for a single day since I received my iPhone 4 in high school. But ever since I started studying digital communication, I’ve been more and more interested in our relationship with technology. And I’ve determined that as useful as that little gadget is, it may be doing more hard than good.
I know I’m not the only one. Many of us have gotten used to going through our day with our heads buried in our screens, completely unaware of what’s happening around us. And what has started to upset me more, is when I’m out in public and can see an entire room full of dozens of people, all sitting side-by-side with their heads down. No one talks, no one looks up, no one engages in real conversation anymore! But any of us will swear up and down that these little gadgets are what keeps us “connected.” How ironic.
We have a stronger relationship with a four-inch screen than we do with our own friends and family. What’s even more bizarre is the intense relationship that younger generations have with their phone, yet many of them refuse to talk on the phone because it’s “awkward.” We’ve become so lost in the technology that the thought of speaking to a human being on a phone and hearing their voice makes people uncomfortable.
Joshua Fields Millburn of “The Minimalists,” wrote a post on theminnimalist.com that describes how scrolling is the new smoking. It doesn’t matter where we are. Whether it’s in the car, at a nice dinner, having drinks with friends, as a whole, we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from the endless stream of emails, Instagram posts, texts, and tweets.
So this got me thinking… How much time do we spend on our phones in a day? How many times do we check our phones in a day? My curiosities lead me to a blog post that I found on dscout.com called “Putting a Finger on Our Phone Obsession,” by Michael Winnick. It’s all about a study that monitored the behaviors of 94 smartphone users and tracked every single interaction they had with their phone all day, every day for 5 days.
Collectively, they went on their phones over 33,000 times, spent over 60,000 minutes on their phones, and “touched” their phones over 1,100,000 times. On average, people clicked, swiped, or tapped 2,617 times a day. The heaviest users totaled 5,427 touches a day! In one day, the average amount of time spent on the phones totaled 2.42 hours a day, but the heaviest users spent 3.75 hours a day on their phones. Finally, the average user went on their phone 76 different times a day, and the heaviest users totaled 132 separate sessions.
Although this data is a little bit disturbing to see, it’s not at all hard to believe. Think about how many times you’ve grabbed your phone, opened up the lock screen, and thought… “Wait, why did I go to check my phone?”
Chip Gaines says in his article, “A Breakup Story: An Unintentional Lesson On Letting Go,” that losing your cell phone today is like losing a part of your body. Gaines shares in his article that he accidentally ruined his phone one day when he fell into the water while the phone was in his pocket. So he had to make a choice: spend tons of money to replace it or wait a few months until it was time for his free upgrade. Instead of spending a bunch of money to automatically replace his phone, he did something that few of us could imagine doing right now. Gaines got a temporary flip phone to stay in touch with co-workers or family that absolutely needed to call him.
For months he went without the luxuries of our modern day smartphones and his account of those few months is interesting, to say the least. He began to discover just how reliant he was on technology. Gaines shares, “For the first few days I kept reaching for my phone only to realize I didn’t have it on me. At times I thought I even heard a buzz or a ring, but of course, that couldn’t be.”
He experienced what seems like multiple stages of withdrawal as he had to live without the beloved iPhone. Everywhere he went, he didn’t have that automatic access to conveniences like internet, emails, a calculator, the weather app, the notes app, a GPS, etc. But don’t worry, he survived.
Gaines explained that although the first few weeks of the change were difficult, it forced him to become more efficient and look for help elsewhere. He had to start doing things throughout the day that seems so old-fashioned now… like check a newspaper, find and use a calculator, walk outside to look at the thermometer, and use physical bank statements. Gaines says that although he wasn’t happy about losing his phone, it forced him to massage some other muscles that had grown weak. Instead of connecting with people over email or social media, he was actually talking to people more and having more meaningful interactions with people he met. He could no longer grab his phone to avoid conversations by scrolling through nonsense on social media networks.
Gaines shares that now that his new phone has come in, “The magic this little device once held for me has lost a lot of its luster.” He no longer feels completely attached to his phone and often leaves it in a drawer while he spends the day away from it if he finds himself becoming too reliant on it again.
There are many stories out their about people breaking up with their phone or other technology at home and how they were able to feel better and more fulfilled once they broke the hold their phones held over them. What I want to take away from these articles is not to necessarily be cut out our iPhones and other technology, but to limit ourselves and use it with intention. It would be unreasonable and unrealistic to ask people to go back to flip phones and cut out the technology in their lives. Instead, let’s find ways to simplify, and get back to those simple tasks we used to do before our phones took over. Write a letter instead of an email, use a calculator instead of an app, or reach for a book instead of the search engines. Or have a conversation with someone new instead of wasting that time scrolling. Only then, can we be free from the hold of our shiny iPhones and learn to live with these devices instead of being controlled by them.
What are your thoughts? Do you think you’ve been too reliant on your smartphone? How much time do you think you spend on the phone every day? And what are your tips and suggestions that have helped you in avoiding mindless scrolling throughout the day?
Photographer: Matt Rutski