Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone?

When the smartphone was introduced over a decade ago it was greeted as a wonder of technology. It connected us to each other in a way that was only previously possible in science fiction. But now in its second decade it is damaging the mental health of millions of people.

Addicted to the phone

Almost everyone now has a smartphone and the amount of time we spend using them is increasing to the detriment of other activities. Usage is designed to be addictive and as with any addiction there is a price to pay. Checking emails, Facebook, tweets, Instagram, apps and internet sites is now part of the daily routine. The spill over effect harms relationships, shrinks our attention span, creates the expectation of instant feedback and alters how our brains work. Sleep patterns are even disrupted, as phones are checked last thing at night, during the night and first thing in the morning.

One driver of such behaviour is the fear of missing out, which plays a part in creating anxiety in the lives of many smartphone owners. The fear that other people are having more fun is magnified by the constant sharing of photographs and messages. Such addiction also affects the mental health of millions of young people, as they have never experienced life without the stress of endless technology-driven comparisons.

A toxic addiction

A toxic addiction to smartphone use creates a heightened sense of anxiety, as we relate what we do in the real world with what others appear to do in the digital world. Young people are disproportionately affected, as they are most influenced by engaging on social media with others. Smartphones have their use and the access provided for people in all parts of the world is a tremendous benefit. But their specifically designed addictive nature causes problems that will continue to escalate until regulators limit the ability of companies to unfairly capture the attention of young and old.

The development of traditional relationships is still the best way to connect with others and the rise of the smartphone threatens this approach. Not least because online likes are a poor substitute for real life fun and friendships.

In recent years the smartphone has changed from being a useful technology to one that increases levels of stress in the lives of countless people. Its brief history details an incredible journey and one that is only beginning, as we search for ways to harness the good and minimise the bad. Whether or not it’s possible to reduce levels of addiction only time will tell but it is important to recognise the seriousness of the problem and look for a solution.

So, the smartphone is creating millions of addicts but the real question is how are we going to limit the damage it does to the next generation.