When the alarm clock goes off, you reach for your phone to turn it off. You’re excited about your upcoming family cruise, but your kids are panicked because there will be no Wi-Fi. If you’re being honest, so are you. During your grandfather’s funeral, your favorite aunt glares at you as your eyes meet when you glance up from your phone.
Seem familiar? People are as tethered as ever to their smartphones and they are starting to recognize its pitfalls, according to a recent Ipsos study for Motorola among 4,418 people ages 16 to 65 across the U.S., India, Brazil and France.
The survey revealed that three in five smartphone users keep their phones within reach even when they sleep and two in five people check it when they should be sleeping. People also concede that they neglect loved ones to use their phones, avoid face-to-face interactions by using their phones, and even feel hurt when someone does the same to them.
Now, people say they want to get back in control.
“What seemed very new to me was this idea of people recognizing it and asking to fix it,” says Catherine Norkus, senior account manager U.S. for Ipsos Connect. “People want help.” Nearly a quarter of people in the poll said they worry about their relationship with their phones.
For most people, their phone dependence “is not on the level of addiction but it can become compulsive,” says Dr. Nancy Etcoff, research partner in the Ipsos study and expert in mind/ behavior and the science of happiness at Harvard University.
Beyond being our connector to people, work and school, smartphones also are our banker, wallet, entertainment and sometimes baby sitter. That’s not all. More than a third of people overall in the survey and half of people ages 16 to 20 likened their phone to their best friend. A fifth of Gen Xers and baby boomers characterized their devices as frenemies and pests. At least one in 10 people called their phones their soulmate or secret lover and a few people even think their phone is their evil twin.
Like the line states in the film, “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The person whose calls you always take? That’s the relationship you’re in.” Increasingly, that relationship is with cat videos, social media trolls and Scott Rogowsky, the host of trivia site HQ, and mobile media is designed to win your attention every time.
The next addicted generation
We’re passing our habits onto our kids. The average person in the survey said they used a smartphone to occupy a child as early as age 6-and-a-half. Millennials did so even earlier. Twelve is the age that most people say is appropriate for a child to have their own smartphone. Yet, two in five people say they feel guilty when they give a young child a smartphone to occupy them.
Etcoff urges parents to stop modeling behavior they want their children to avoid. “When you’re with your kid and if you’re always on the phone, inevitably no matter what you say they’ll always want to be on the phone.”
Motorola is trying to help. It has launched a global awareness campaign about phone-life balance with advertising, an online quiz and a mobile app called Space to help people identify how they much use their phones and offer ways to tune back into the real world.
“Often technology leaps ahead or our ability to use it wisely,” says Etcoff. “Here we see all the good things of the phone but now we have to catch up with automatic responses from our brain reward system that are leading us astray.” She adds that the software and app industry needs to help, too. “They want you to keep clicking. The other end of this is getting some understanding and the software apps industry buy-in of how to help.”