I have both a lap top and an iPad and I notice that with each acquisition the device gets smaller, lighter and more portable. I then find myself checking my email and social media platforms more frequently than I did before. Do I have a device addiction? I’m not sure, but perhaps like any other addiction, if I am even pondering the question, then I definitely think I’m in the “at risk” category.
One of the signs apparently that we are addicted to social media is if we check in the morning before doing anything else first. I confess – not quite first …but close! I charge my iPad in my kitchen and while I’m waiting for my coffee – I have quick check. I also confess to getting twitchy if I can’t access wifi. When booking hotels it’s one of my primary requirements, coming a close second only to a bed.
I have just bought a new phone. I am embarrassed to say that my old model cost £5 many years ago. To put this in context, in the mobile phone hierarchy it would have the same ranking as a social outcast. If it was a geological period it would probably get a Paleocene dating. I would never show it in public and certainly never put it on a table in a meeting. Many find this astounding for someone like me, but if I am not available by email or landline, then generally it’s because I am not available at all. In fact somewhat surprisingly I hardly use my mobile. I opened a text message wishing me a Happy New Year in March. Despite warnings about toxic signals next to my head, I use a mobile phone mainly for the alarm, plus the occasional emergency. I rarely know where it is and am regularly phoning myself to track it down.
So my new purchase needed to be upgraded, de rigueur, functionally effective and to meet my needs. When I canvassed my tech savvy friends and family about possible replacement choices I confounded them all by saying that I did not want to access my email on my phone.
Why? In case it sets me on the slippery device addiction slope.
I simply have no idea how I would be if I had a device that I could hold in one hand. I have become aware of seeing people checking their phones in all manner of situations which wouldn’t have existed years ago, Last night alone at the gym a woman was desperately trying to text or mail while doing a reasonably serious jog on a treadmill. The treadmill won. A couple in a restaurant instead of chatting, responded to alerts from their Smart phones more attentively than each other. The famous graffiti artist Banksys in his latest offering “Mobile Lovers” confirms this compulsive trend. How many of us have been forced to listen to banal intrusive conversations on trains, restaurants and supermarkets? Or watched people seemingly muttering to themselves in the streets with what appear to be surgically embedded implants attached to their heads.
Slide to open
This next comment has no basis in fact at all, but I think someone should do research on touch screens. I definitely think they contribute to the compulsiveness of checking messages. They are the equivalent of a threshold drug, stealthily drawing you in to a pattern of behaviour. There is certainly something in “slide to open” which is more inviting, tactile and almost sensual than pushing down on a hard plastic button. Research from Deloitte tells us that people check their mobile devices 150 times a day. Based on each “check” taking 30 seconds, I calculated that this simple compulsive action takes 75 minutes out of our days. Calculating what that amounts to on an annual basis is a horrifying 19 days. I use this number when people whinge about not having time to network or not having time for anything at all.
As an international debate gathers momentum about technology and mental health and whether excessive after hours contact by organisations should be limited by law, we also need to take stock of our own compulsions. Further research shows that employees in Canada and the U.S. cost companies $1.1 billion a week in time “spent browsing the Web, corresponding on social networks and personal email and keeping up with sports form a big part of that lost effort” according to BOLT.
So taking into account my declining control over my devices as they become smaller and more portable, I finally compromised on a model. It looks cool enough to take out of my bag without blushing and I can access email features in the case of an emergency. It has both a key board and a touch screen. You can already guess which I am gravitating towards. Whether this will be sufficient to curtail my “check ins” only time will tell.
Next step device anonymous?
How many times a day do you “slide to open?”