Rhodri Marsden: Loving your smartphone is only human

Share
Related Topics

Does your smartphone accompany you, like some kind of overly loyal man-servant, on urgent visits to the toilet? During leisurely canal boat cruises over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, do you forego the view of the Dee Valley to nervously monitor your battery's rapidly depleting charge? Did an enthralling game of Zombie Gunship cause you to forget your own wedding?

If you've answered yes to these three questions, then you're probably one of the 3 million or so British adults who, according to an Ofcom survey, class themselves as smartphone addicts. Reluctant to switch them off in cinemas or theatres, compelled to lovingly glance at them while stopping at traffic lights, distraught without their gently glowing presence by the pillow at night; we've supposedly become emotional slaves to these lozenges of connectivity. And for those in the business of scaremongering, it's causing us to slide irrevocably downwards to hell in a digital handcart.

You see studies like this emerge all the time. Often they're pegged to a PR campaign by companies whose services are threatened by smartphone use; sometimes they're solemnly delivered by self-proclaimed experts who, in the next breath, offer pricy online counselling sessions via their website.

But does this compulsion to tinker with a phone really equal addiction? If you're using it to play games, or gamble, or look at pornography, then these are recognised problems that have their own forms of treatment. But the thing that's increasingly demonised is the act of connecting with other human beings; the texts, the tweets, the Facebook chats, the video calls. I'm not ashamed to say that these innovations have brought about changes in my life that are overwhelmingly positive. Yes, this might have caused me to scream "Stop!" at a taxi I've left my phone in, or repeatedly press the "check email" button, or experience the odd "phantom ring" when I've rushed to answer the phone and discovered that I'd imagined it. But it's hardly comparable to whacking heroin into my femoral vein.

Granted, there's a similarity between this kind of behaviour and our use of slot machines; through associative learning we know that, more often than not, a message from a friend makes us feel great. We never know precisely when we're going to receive one, so we keep checking. We're usually disappointed, but occasionally we're not – so we keep doing it. While some psychiatrists are pressing for this kind of behaviour to become a recognised psychopathology, there are many more who believe that you can't be addicted to human contact any more than you could be addicted to hanging out at a social club in King's Lynn.

I keep hearing preposterous phrases like "the more connected we are, the less we connect" being used in relation to this issue, and while it's conceivable that a tiny proportion of people use their phones to blot out reality, for everyone else it's an extension of their social lives, not a replacement. You read similarly smug statements online like, "Well, in the old days we saw people face-to-face and had fun"; if these people would like to email me, I'll send them footage of me socialising and having moderate amounts of fun. It makes for cracking viewing.

I recently attended a Neil Diamond show with my extended family, and after we had said our goodbyes I pulled out my phone and unlocked it. My mum's cousin pointed at me and said – with a note of triumph in her voice – "And that's part of the problem!" I'm still not sure whether she was talking about a widespread social malaise or accusing me of having a dysfunctional personality, but I genuinely don't believe there is a problem. I now look forward to well-meaning but misguided advice that I need to recognise the problem as a first step towards conquering my supposed addiction.

r.marsden@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back