Is Smartphone and Internet Addiction Really a Cause for Concern?

Is Smartphone and Internet Addiction Really a Cause for Concern?
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Are we all addicted to our smartphones and the internet? And even if we are, is that such a bad thing?

Over 56 percent of all Americans now own smartphones — regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, career or economic status — according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Of those who didn’t, 35 percent owned “dumb phones”; while the remaining 9 percent said they had no phone at all. And it’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that the number of smartphone owners has only increased in the last three years.

Of the people who owned smartphones, 81 percent of them said that they always have their devices with them, according to a Gallup poll. 72 percent claimed to check their smartphone at least once an hour — and in many cases, several times an hour. Among people aged 18 to 29, 22 percent said that they check their phone every few minutes. According to recent surveys, between 1.5 and 8.2 percent of the population in the U.S. and Europe have some form of internet addiction.

But those are just the statistics. What are the results? Frankly, we’re not entirely sure. Tech and internet addiction is a fairly new phenomenon — at least, at this scale. We’re even beginning to see new terms coined because of it, including nomophobia, which is the fear that being away from your phone somehow leaves you disconnected from the world.

That’s certainly understandable. In reality, the internet — and the devices we use to access it — is truly a beautiful thing. Never before in the history of humanity has the world been so connected. We have the entire breadth of human knowledge literally at our fingertips. We can easily keep in contact with our loved ones, enough if they are thousands of miles away. We can listen to any song, whenever we want, we can instantly get recommendations for the best local restaurants, and we can get the latest and most important headlines beamed directly to our lock screens.

But this connectedness has some consequences. Constantly staring at our phones can damage our relationships, hunching over to look at our screens is bad for our posture, the blue light from our iPhones can keep us up at night and ruin our sleep, internet addiction can make us more anxious and do worse in school, and being able to easily access information might even have some negative effects on your cognitive abilities.

But before you toss your smartphone away (and let’s be honest, you weren’t going to, anyway), consider how thoroughly intertwined technology is with our current lifestyle. These days, if you don’t have a Facebook or a phone, you’re seen as an outlier. There might be a point in our future where making a purchase without a smartphone could be difficult, and not having a LinkedIn account might negatively affect our chances at nabbing a job — and lacking computer and smartphone skills might even disqualify us from said job. Smartphone and internet addictions seems like a natural consequence of how technology is changing our lives.

As the internet becomes more pervasive in our everyday lives, it’s going to become harder and harder to intentionally disconnect from it without some serious disadvantages.

So don’t. There’s nothing wrong with checking your smartphone — even consistently. Just remember that, for everything, moderation is key. There are some easy steps you can follow to ensure that your trusty sidekick isn’t damaging your health and relationships, according to Psychology Today — like putting your devices away when it’s bedtime, abstaining from texting and driving, and trying your hardest to actually interact with the human beings in close proximity to you.

In any case, the internet and your phone aren’t the enemy — the lack of self-control is. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start dealing with the changes — good or bad — that technology brings.

Would you consider yourself to be “smartphone addicted”?
Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

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