Our use of technology, or perhaps overuseor misuse, has been something of a cause celebre in the media of late. That’s partly because some of those thatcreated the technologies have now come out and said some of them are very likely notgood for you.
One former executive at Facebook has saidhe doesn’t believe children should even be on the platform. But we can’t blame social media alone; countlessarticles of late have stated that we are probably just too connected, which is affecting oursocial skills and making us more depressed – especially the young. But why can’t we put our gadgets down, andwhat exactly are the negative consequences of too much time spent on our devices?
That’s what we’ll find out today, in thisepisode of the Infographics Show, Why Are You So Addicted to Your Smartphone? Pew Research recently released the detailsof a study which told us where in the world was the biggest smartphone penetration. South Korea was top, followed by Australia,Israel, the U.S, Spain and the UK. But that doesn’t mean people in those countriesare actually using their phone all the time, or does it? Well, based on a 2016 study led by Statistica,it does look like people in those countries might fall into the category of being a “smartphonezombie.”
The study said Brazilians spent the most hourson average connected to a smartphone at 4 hours 48 minutes per day. Next was China at 3 hours 3 minutes, followedby the U.S. (2 hours 37 minutes), Italy (2 hours 34 minutes), Spain (2 hours 11 minutes)and South Korea (2 hours 10 minutes). One thing rang true for all countries in thestudy, and that was the fact time spent on a smartphone for the average person was upquite a lot from 2012 to 2016. If we look at which countries spend most timeonline, different studies give different results.
One of the most recent ones from 2018 tellsus it’s the Asians that don’t log off so often. The report, called We Are Social, said Thaisspend the most time online with an average of 9 hours and 38 minutes per day.
The Philippines was next at 9 hours 29 minutesand Brazil following at 9 hours and 14 minutes. You had to go down the list a fair bit tofind the U.S., UK, Australia, or indeed many European nations. The same report stated that use of socialmedia was one of main reasons for time being spent online, putting the Philippines as thebiggest social media users, Brazil in second, Indonesia in third and Thailand in fourth.
What we are all doing when we are using oursmartphone is not an easy question to answer, but one study by Mobile Insights gave somenumbers on what people in the U.S. are doing when they actively use their smartphone. 19 percent of the time was spent on Facebook,and that was the leading usage time.
Music, media and entertainment was next at14 percent, followed by messaging at 12 percent, gaming at 11 percent, and utilities at 9 percentof the time. Trailing behind was shopping, productivity,and YouTube. Maybe that’s you right now. If Facebook is number one, then we guess weshould start there. What’s so bad about using Facebook? Quite a lot apparently.
The American Psychological Association issueda recent report saying that too much social media use can lead to depression. Soon after, big Apple investors stated thatthey were concerned about the impact device use is having on society. Late last year, a former Facebook executivesaid social media was “ripping society apart”, calling it a beast and saying he’d neverallow his kids to use it. This led to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issuingstatements saying he wanted people to spend only quality time on Facebook, and that meantbeing active and communicating, and not just swiping. Soon after that, lots of leading tech execsgot together to form The Center for Humane Technology to, “liberate us from technologyaddiction.”
So, what is going here? We might remember what American author JonathanFranzen once wrote for the New York Times, in that making liking something not so naturaland more of a consumer choice, we are dehumanizing interaction. He also talked about narcissism and how ouronline persona exists in a kind of flattering hall of mirrors. More recently, Tristan Harris talked abouthow our devices manipulate us into using them. It’s a kind of aesthetic thing sometimes,so he wants to make smartphones less visually appealing.
Wired reported that Harris believes our gadgetsare “an existential threat to human beings.” In the same story Robert Lustig, a pediatricendocrinologist at the University of California, said technology was addictive just like adrug. For every like we get, or Pokémon we catch,we get a hit of dopamine. And we want more…and more. “But if you overstimulate dopamine neurons,they die,” he said, and this might lead to depression or even suicidal thoughts. Others have talked about Facebook’s cultureof envy.
Seeing what we don’t have, or can’t have,daily, all the time, as everyone marches on through what might seem at times to be theirperfect lives. Being so connected might make us vulnerableto insecurities, as in some ways social media can be quite competitive. We want this positive feedback loop, but it’snot the same as physical interaction. As one writer called it, “The human bond,so essential to our well-being, has become desiccated within the apathetic medium ofthe online hub.
Social networks have become bottomless poolsinto which billions of modern Narcissists sit entranced staring at their own virtualreflections.” We don’t need to tell you about the fateof Narcissus. We might ask if this has anything to do withall those reports around the world that tell us depression is on the rise, especially inteens. Most reports in English refer to the U.S.and the UK, but the WHO in 2017 released a study stating that depression was on the riseglobally.
So, maybe we should follow Zuckerberg’sadvice and use Facebook sparingly and try and use it for the good of our minds, forour edification, rather than something that makes us feel insecure or envious… or justbecause we are nosey.
But Facebook is only part of the reason whywe can’t put our phones down. We have this exciting thing in our pocketthat flashes and beeps and looks so inviting, spurring one critic to compare it to openinga casino on every street corner.
For him there should be zoning laws for technologyas there are for casinos. NPR in 2018 talked about this manipulativeobject we carry around with us, that is just so irresistible. The story mentions Russian psychologist IvanPavlov, and what we know as Pavlov’s dog. The psychologist one day realized that whenhis dog heard a bell or a buzzer, he knew it was feeding time, thereby associating asound to eating, which led to the dog drooling and looking excited.
Modern psychologists tell us this is whatis happening to us when we hear a beep or a ding inside our pocket; we become excitablelike Pavlov’s dog. A reward is coming, and we get a hit of dopamine. And we want more hits, damnit! We check our phones on average every 15 minutes,and those that make the tech use psychological tricks to keep us checking in. We are getting our dopamine hits, but likedrug addicts or gambling addicts, we are kinda playing into someone else’s trap.
All this time spent checking in may affectour sleep, our relationships, our work, or even all the creative things we might do tohave a flourishing existence. The long and short of it all is that psychologiststend to agree we should be checking in less, and tech producers need to start thinkingabout creating less powerful digital drugs. That isn’t easy of course, as most peoplenow need those beeps and likes, and need to feel they are not missing out on something.
Experts even state that by putting your phonedown, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as craving, restlessness, irritabilityor difficulty concentrating. Serious guides are out there to help you weanoff your digital fix and spend more time in real life. You might want to turn off notifications,have a plan for the day and stick to it, take off the apps you don’t really need as thatmight lead to a kind of app surfing, much like when you watched three hours of mind-numbingcable TV.
In general, not many people are against thesetechnologies, but we should be focusing on what we might call device “quality time”,educating ourselves and being productive and creative. We hope these few minutes have been educationalfor you.
So, do you think people are spending too muchtime on their smartphones? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other videocalled Most Expensive Things in the World! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’tforget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!