As the information economy comes to shape itself around a sort of unquestioning abidance by viral technologies, there's a trade-off for making life easier. That trade-off is an increasing level of commitment that doesn't exactly contribute to our ease of mind or personal attunement. And here’s the first number that should feel like a splash of cold water: The average person checks their cellphone 110 times a day. That’s an average of 9 times hourly, with the greatest proportion of phone attendance during downtime evening hours. We'd like to believe those hours serve leisure and relaxation (if feverishly updating your social media profiles qualifies as relaxation), but the data suggests a smartphone is, for many of us, as much a liability as it is a luxury.
Staying plugged into a high-tech network means round the clock receptiveness to ads, alerts and updates, floods of text messages that keep us zeroed in and exercising our thumbs at family dinner, and a certain compulsion to replace our chosen portable tech tool every two years like renewing a lease or rental. Theoretically speaking, your 21st century cellphone isn’t so much yours as it is a kind of societal tether that you pay to use. Whether in our pockets or on the desk, it keeps you beholden to just about everyone and everything else you’ve got going on outside the here and now.
But when it comes to tech addiction, it’s easy to feign concern about our actions and then completely excuse ourselves when we give up on doing anything about it. Are we legitimately worried about shiny sleek screens taking over our personal lives, or is the concern that we're becoming slaves to our devices a sensational hyperbole? If you're from the former camp, great (terrible) news — there’s an app for that. Reduce your cellphone usage via an app on your cellphone! If you're of the latter opinion, though, here’s some absurd stats that might help you conquer the denial.
Is there any bigger testament to phone addiction? The most personal, primal and pleasurable human experience somehow finds itself entangled with your smartphone. What do 1 in 5 young adults, and 1 in 10 adults, use it for in the sack? Who knows, but for those who like to incorporate their smartphones in their sex life, there's now an app called 'spreadsheets' which records your sexual data. Frequency, duration and all sorts. Hmm.
Fear of being unreachable by cellphone has its own medical term. A 2010 UK study identified Nomophobia (that’s no-mobile-phone phobia) in 55% of the population who experienced clear symptoms of anxiety and stress without their mobile phones handy. And yes, these kinds of numbers are on the rise, with a TIME Mobility Poll in 2012 discovering 84% of phone users can’t fathom a day without cellular contact.
This figure from the American Psychological Association might seem innocent at first, but it means Americans not only think about work constantly while presumably trying to get away from it all - smartphones compel them to actually take the job with them to the beach. Kind of defeats the point of time off doesn’t it? Over in Europe, French unions (always looking out for the precious French leisure time) have recently introduced legally binding regulations that ensure employees must not be expected by their employer to check their work emails after 6pm.
What do cell phones and teddy bears have in common? Apparently they both calm anxieties, though one caused by monsters under the bed and the other by not being reachable by everyone you know in the middle of the night (known as FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out). With 80% of young adults collectively sleeping with their cellphones, the invasiveness of this technology can hardly be overstated. Future generations will likely sleep with far more advanced buzzing, blinking companions than we know today; our children's children will probably be more reliant on their portable tech than their nightlight.
Is checking your phone the very first thing you do when you wake up? For a majority of surveyed workers, tending to work email on their cell phone has become a first and last order of daily business, both when calling it a day in bed, and greeting the morning fresh out of sleep. The smartphone ties work into the very fringes of your waking life in the hours farthest from 9-5, and yes, even in the midst of priceless family time.
It might be easy to laugh this off, but if whipping out your phone becomes your default response to any moment to yourself, you might have a cellphone problem. Possible treatment? Try letting your mind wander next time you make a pit stop or find yourself in line at the cashier.
This statistic from the Center for Creative Leadership shows just how much more personal time we might willingly surrender through seemingly innocuous phone usage. Wielding an all-in-one smartphone, the pressures and demands of the workplace follow you everywhere, and professionals tend to address their work substantially more than anyone with a healthy personal life should. The future of the traditional work-life balance has been suggested as 'work-life integration'; that's when we'll learn to accept the fact that portable tech means our work is carried everywhere with us, but we adapt to this in a healthy rather than a dependent way. Apparently, we're not there yet.
Thanks to waterproof smartphones, yes, someone out there right now is probably exfoliating their buttocks while reading a text message. You can imagine them laying it down next to the soap and shampoo, lathering their armpits, checking emails while rinsing. Maybe one day everyone will practice healthy phone hygiene.
We get it—you’re stuck in rush hour and nobody’s really driving anyway, so you check Twitter and send a few texts while you wait. Driving while texting has been outlawed with harsh fines across North America, though the numbers suggest the laws are creating a dodge-the-cops mentality rather than actually deterring the crime. Today in America, alcohol-related traffic fatalities are 52% lower than 30 years ago, while non-alcohol related traffic deaths have jumped 78%.
Welcome to the future: According to a UN study last year, humanity is better at providing access to mobile phones than sanitation. Of 7 billion people today, 6 billion have phone access and only 4.5 billion have a working toilet. Given the popularity of phone usage on the toilet, that means there's conceivably someone out there right now playing Angry Bird or Snake III while peeing in the woods.