Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Are Smartphones addictive?

  A new book suggests that smartphones are addictive.  Are they?

  According to one article in LiveScience blog, various research results suggest the possibility. 
  • smartphones are regularly cited as the first thing people reach for in the morning, and the last thing checked at night
  • some people report spending more time with their phones that in personal relationships
  • surveys suggest that the majority of young people check their phones hourly
  • another survey suggests most people feel "panicked" when they've misplaced their phones
The social researcher in me doesn't find these anecdotes compelling causal evidence of "smartphone addition" any more than similar findings about police or military attitudes about their guns would be evidence of "firearms addiction".  Particularly since many of the research "results" are about cellphones and not smartphones. In addition, I could dig up similar research results from the past talking about the Internet, TV, and even newspapers.
  There are people with addictive personalities that may settle on phones or smartphones as their preferred focus. There are people who will focus on phones or smartphones as their primary medium for information and communication as they find those media more useful or valuable than other more traditional sources (media dependency). And there are people who will develop new habitual patterns in their use of media as a result of access to new forms of media devices.  But those aren't evidence of addiction in the clinical, psychological, sense.
  But "addiction" isn't the main point for the Harvard Business professor who wrote the book - the supposed "addiction" is provided in support of the argument that new habits of use are becoming associated with mobile devices - habits that aren't necessarily efficient or productive within a corporate environment.  The focus of the book is then on how to "break" those habits.
  There is mounting evidence that smartphone and tablet owners are shifting their media use habits.  For example, rather than going to TV or radio to check news and weather in the morning, many go online through mobile devices for that information.  And these habits will have impacts in a competitive media environment, and arguably in the broader social environment as well. In addition, personal habits may not be the most efficient work habits; and eventually people recognize that and develop situational habits and behaviors.  But habits are not addictions in any reasonable or meaningful sense
  So please, let's avoid terms like "addiction" that suggest an illness to be cured, rather than recognizing that for most people, these emerging behaviors are logical and reasonable responses to newer ways of communication, information-seeking, and content use that offer better personal value to the user than the old habits offered.  Crying "addiction" is not the way of reason or science - it's scaremongering.
  If you really want to talk about addicts in that sense, look at those who are unwilling to abandon past habits in changing circumstances.  Doing something that you know is not as useful or beneficial when you have better options (and manufacturing false justifications for those behaviors) is much closer to evidence of addiction than simply doing something a lot.

Source -  Smartphone Addition Is Real... and RampantLiveScience

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