The smartphone addiction: overdosing on connection

There are multiple things I find extremely unsettling about mobile phones.  They are spying on us, which is extremely creepy, they are becoming more and more indistinguishable from the human brain, which is downright scary, and they are negatively affecting day-to-day human interaction, which is just depressing. The relationship people have with their mobile device is becoming increasingly dependent and controlling, and it worries me.

Ever heard of Carrier IQ? Well, they’ve heard of you. Carrier IQ is software that is installed in most Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones that chronicles the user’s phone experience, including sent and received text messages and web searches. But you can’t get rid of it without replacing the operating system of the phone, and even then you may not be able to escape, according to WIRED, a print and online magazine dedicated to breaking the most updated innovations that are changing the world.

Just two days ago, examiner.com posted an article concerning Facebook’s admission that they been on spying on its phone users’ text messages.  According to the article, Facebook stated it had engaged in this activity to use the information to develop its own messaging service, but the question is, why did it need to read specific, personal messages to develop this technology?

Even the entertainment industry acknowledges the power (and often times evilness) of cell phones. In the movie “One Missed Call,” an unknown voice calls people’s cell phones to tell them they are going to die, and they will still get the messages even if the battery is out of the phone. In the season finale of the popular television show “Dollhouse,” the evil masterminds discover they can remotely wipe and reprogram people’s brains via cell phone, making all human brains part of a computer network. In Stephen King’s book “Cell,” everybody receives phone calls that turns them crazy. Many people consider these stories unrealistic. But there are parts to all of them that ring eerily true.

I’m not hesitant to call people’s constant need to have their phone an outright addiction. People are so used to having their phones with them that when they are cut off from them, they experience anxiety and hypervigilance, according to Shari Corbitt, a psychologist specializing in addiction behavior. And instead of being looked down upon for being so connected, cell phone addicts are often praised for their quick responses and up-to-date information. Alcoholics or drug addicts are encouraged to go to rehab. People with a cell phone addiction go unnoticed because it’s such a widespread issue that it’s not even recognized as a problem.

Simply walk around Elon’s campus (or any college campus) and count how many students are talking on their cell phone. When students walk alone from building to building, they feel the need to call or text someone.  Next time you get dinner with a group of friends, count how many of them are using their phone at any given minute. A game called “cellphone stacking” has been invented to test how long people can be without their phone at the dinner table. The rules are simple: everyone stacks his or her phone onto the others and are forced to have a person-to-person conversation. The first person to reach for their phone buys everyone dinner.

What has our society come to that we need to invent a game in order stay off of our phones? Talking to our friends and family without being distracted should be motivation enough. People are no longer engaged in the moment or active participants in conversation. We are losing each other.

What scares me even more is that you don’t even have to go to a college campus to see this pattern. An elementary school would yield the same results. A survey from the Center of Media and Health showed that 22 percent of kids age six to nine have cell phones, 60 percent of 10 to 14 year olds have cell phones and 84 percent of 15 to 18 year olds. I have no doubt that the age kids get their first cell phone will continue to lower.

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with my cell phone.  I love it because it gives me a way to talk to my family, who I don’t get to see very often. If I’m on the go and need to call someone, I can do so. If I’m ever in an emergency and need help, it’s there for me.

But I hate that I feel like I can never be without it. I secretly love when my phone dies or I accidentally leave it in my room so that I have an excuse to be disconnected from it. It’s legitimately a liberating feeling, which is extremely worrisome. I want that feeling to come from skydiving or bungee jumping, not from being away from my cell phone for a couple hours.

Because I’m so used to having it with me, I know how many emails I get in a certain time period or how many calls I would miss if I didn’t carry it with me. I therefore feel like I have to have it with me at all times. If someone needs me, I want to be able to take their call. When I wake up in the morning, I immediately check my email on my phone to see if there’s anything I need to respond to right away. This just starts my day off in a stressful manner.

 

So friends: If i don’t answer your call or text right away, I promise I’m okay. I’m just taking a nice, hour long break from the monster that is my phone.

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