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

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs  

Nick Clegg: We should to go to war on drugs, not on addicts

Nick Clegg
East German border guards stand on a section of the Berlin wall in front of the Brandenburg gate on November 11, 1989  

Twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, Hungary’s PM thinks it is Western capitalism that is in its death throes

Peter Popham
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes