How addicted am I to my phone?
Whenever I sit in the train I see almost everyone playing with their phone. And so am I, I pull my phone out whenever I am bored. With mobile technology everything has changed. We have become less social and less interested in our surroundings. As I must believe, we used to have much more small talks with the strangers around us and we knew our neighbors much better. Now we are just gazed at our smartphones whenever we are waiting on the bus or sitting in the train. Why should you talk to a stranger next to you when you can text with your friends instead? Why should you ask someone for directions when you have Google-maps? Why should you ask someone for a good restaurant when you have Tripadvisor?
The average Western adult is addicted to his or her phone. The first thing most of us do when we are a little bored is checking our phone. Sometimes I even pee sitting down so I can check my phone. When we feel our phone vibrating in our pocket we have the irresistible urge to check it. When someone is calling us we abruptly pause our real life conversations to talk with whoever is calling us, calling people are more important people. People even need to make agreements on not using their phones when they go out eating, that addicted are we.
I think I am one of them; I certainly get excited whenever I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket. But I wouldn’t consider me as a heavy addict. In 2015 my phone was always on silentmode, at night often on flightmode, I wasn’t that active on Facebook, and I didn’t use Twitter or Instagram. Nonetheless, I did use Whatsapp, I checked the news, read my e-mails, googled stuff, and played a game once in a while. But honestly, I am little aware of how many hours a day I spend using my smartphone. I’m sure I use my smartphone often, but how addicted am I? How much hours per day did I spend using my phone? And at what was I staring at?
Fortunately, I have been tracking my phone use. During the whole year 2015 the application Trackerfy was running on the background of my phone. The app Rescuetime was also running, but this app only started running from October 2015. These apps analyzed my phone usage; they tracked how many hours I spend on my phone and which applications I used. As an extra; I analyzed the effects of my phone usage on me, by using my self-perceived loneliness, sociality, and stress ratings (1-10) which I rate every day in my daily diary using the Taplog app. WIth SPSS I have analyzed the data, and I have plotted the data using Excel.
Results & discussion
In 2015 I have spent 21 days, 11 hours and 58 minutes using my phone. That is an incredible amount. In a month that is almost a full working week of 40 hours. On a daily basis, it is roughly 1 hour and 25 minutes per day. That still seems a lot. Nonetheless, an American study showed that an average American teen spends 2 hours and 42 minutes on their smartphone. An English study with 23 young adults showed that these adults used their phone for an average of 5 hours per day(!). Looking at these statistics, I am pretty much below the average use. But still, 21 days a year! That’s crazy.
Whatsapp, the heroine of applications?
Looking at figure 1, you can see that without a doubt, Whatsapp is my most popular application. Games, e-mail, news, and Facebook were not that popular. 50% of the time I spent on my phone is spent on Whatsapp. There is not much studies concerning this topic, but it looks like my behavior is in line with the general population.
We are all happy when Whatsapp is vibrating our phone. Someone thinks about you, you have friends! Whenever I feel my phone vibrating it instantly distracts me from whatever I am doing. I even found a relation between perceived daily stress and Whatsapp use (r=,326, p=.027). But you have to respond to your friends right? It is almost rude not to answer Whatsapp messages instantly, especially with the blue checkmarks. Whenever you fall for these attractions and you respond to a message, you’ll receive one a few minutes later again. The quicker you respond, the quicker you’ll receive a message in return. That’s how you get sucked into Whatsapp, it is easy as that. I recommend you to watch this great South park episode about how people get sucked into Facebook. Luckily I’m not that active on Facebook, so fortunately I don’t spend hours on using it. News, Internet, and 9gag applications don’t really have that effect on you. They are just not that interactive, they don’t draw you back in every time with frequent notifications or nudges.
The new way of being social
Maybe we used to know our neighbors much better, and maybe we had much more small talks with strangers. But nowadays we use social media to interact with others. We maybe know our neighbors less well, but we know our friends who are living a little further away much better. And isn’t making small talk to strangers comparable to being active on Tinder? So aren’t we becoming less social, but are we becoming social in a different way? Isn’t spending hours on Whatsapp not the proof for being a social person?
Whatsapp use did not have any significant relation with my perceived sociality. But maybe my perception about what is “social” is still old fashioned. If I would convince myself that spending time on Whatsapp is very social, I might be satisfied with my social life after spending hours on Whatsapp or Facebook. But I believe that a real life social life still remains very important. Whatsapp is a great application for intensifying your social relationships or for sustaining contact with family from far away. However, I still feel like there is something missing when we compare Whatsapp conversations with real life conversations. Have you ever had someone texting you something significant like “my cat died” on Whatsapp? Your reaction on Whatsapp is never strong enough, no matter how many sad or crying smiley’s you add. When something is really wrong, you go meet that person in real life. That is the proof that real life interactions are more worthy. Face expressions, intonation, hugs, and kisses show just much more contempt than written words with added smiley’s do.
Decreasing the addiction
I can’t do without my phone. But I think I can do less with my phone. But how? In 2015 I have already been kicking off. In the first half of 2015 (January-June), I spend 352 hours on my phone. From July-December I spend 181 hours on my phone (figure 2). That is a dramatic decrease of almost 50%. How is this possible?
From January till June I was mostly working at home. July and August were holidays. From September on I was working on my thesis in a research facility with other colleagues. This is a quiet area and there is a certain social control here. You just don’t play with your phone here that much, therefore my phone use decreased. In hours, the most dramatic change was the decrease in Whatsapp use (Figure 2). I got a little sucked out of Whatsapp. Therefore this might have led to an exponential decrease of my Whatsapp activity. I probably initiated fewer conversations, responder slower on messages, and therefore received fewer messages per day.
Although I used Whatsapp less in the second half of 2015, I (relatively and absolutely) increased the use of other applications like Facebook, 9gag, news, Taplog, and Myfitnesspal. This is probably as some sort of compensation for the reduced amount of Whatsapp messages. You need to do something on your phone whenever you are on the toilet right? Nonetheless, this increase of the use of other applications is to a lesser extent than the decrease of my Whatsapp use. This is probably because I got bored more quickly with these apps (as I suggested earlier).
Still, in the last months of 2015 I spend 40 hours per month on my phone. This seems too much for me. My phone is already always on silent and my group notifications are off. So I needed to do more drastic measures. When writing this article I already changed my behavior. Now I am postponing the reading of messages, and respond slower when messages are not urgent, that already works quite good. But if you are really, really radical and desperate, you can even decide to turn off your phone, but that is just crazy talking.
All and all, it is easy to see how involved I am to my mobile phone. I spend 1 hours and 25 minutes per day on my phone, but 22 hours and 35 minutes I didn’t. So I wouldn’t consider myself as a heavy addict, but my phone goes wherever I go. I think almost all of the Western young adults have the same feeling. We are not able to live our normal life without phones. Sure you can say it is an addiction. But we are all addicted to a social life. Applications like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter give you endless opportunities to make friends from all over the world. If you don’t like your neighbors, you are now able to find better friends online. If you need someone to talk to instantly, you can do that by turning on that phone screen. But in my consideration, the best way to use this social media to send this message: “Hey, when can I see you? :)”