Society’s addiction to technology not limited by age, could be dangerous, study finds

Students wandering around, completely oblivious to their surroundings because of smartphones is becoming a common sight on Cosumnes River College’s campus. The grounds are slowly resembling an episode of The Walking Dead.

Lookout Mobile Security teamed up with Harris Interactive, one of the world’s leading market research firms, to conduct a study in May 2012 to analyze the United States mobile phone habits. According to the study it was concluded that “our thoughts, emotions and behavior are impacted by smartphones.”

This is what Lookout calls the new “mobile mindset.”

With 58 percent of phone users unable to go an hour without checking their phones, according to the study, what is it that drives us to be constantly connected?

“Both anthropologists and psychologists would probably tell you, on the one hand you have the cultural practice where you’re being compelled to use your phone either by society, or your job, or schooling or peer pressure and that feeling like you have to be in on what’s happening right that minute,” said anthropology Professor Anastasia Panagakos. “On the other hand that also then affects your brain and affects your patterns of behavior.”

Panagakos teaches a class on globalization and has students attempt to do a technology fast where they have to stay away from any technology “post 1985.”

“What they sometimes find is that their whole day is kind of oriented around checking their phone and that there is no more down time, there is no sitting and being,”Panagakos said.

People are often so into their phones that they do not realize the harm they are inflicting on themselves.

According to the study, 24 percent of people admit to checking their phone while driving. This can be extremely dangerous and often people die because of these distractions.

Why is it that people risk their lives to check their phones?

Psychology Professors James Frazee and Everett Hannan used substance abuse as a parallel to phone addiction.

“If you’re addicted to a substance, there’s a psychobiology of requiring more of it over time,” said Hannan.

Frazee said that assimilating with a group is “a huge driver of behavior.” So people tend to want to stay in constant contact to receive that feeling of acceptance.

“In people that have addicted behaviour that they get rewards from, and these can be things like a social reward, people are very complex and so in the complexity of personal behavior they might be getting rewarded from the social connection of their phone buzzing,”  Frazee said. “So the problem with the addiction is not connecting to other people, that’s wonderful, the problem with the addiction is that it stands in as a supplement for something that people legitimately need. Which is to hear and be heard by others.”

People are actually more addicted to their phones than you may think.

In Panagakos’ experiment she found the most of her students had symptoms of withdrawal when they were away from their phones.

“A lot of students didn’t make it passed a couple of hours,” Panagakos said. Students only had to attempt to go one day away from technology.

Could you do it?

Daniel Coelho, an 18-year-old automotive technology major said he “falls into the 10 minute category” when it comes to checking his phone.

Besides being addicted, people tend to change their social behavior because of their phones.

According to the Lookout study 30 percent of people admit to checking their phone while having meals with others.

“The problem with phones and our addiction to phones is that it’s actually physically separating us from the good evolutionary thing, which would be to physically connect with another person,” Frazee said.

Students also see this happening.

“Basically your phone is an excuse to not talk to people,” said 18-year-old English major Elizabeth Alvarez.

People also have strong feelings when it comes to losing their phones. The study found that  94 percent are just concerned about losing their phone.

Hannan said it is similar to a drug addict concerned about running out of their drug of choice.

According to the study, 6 percent of people were actually relieved when they lost their phone, compared to the 73 percent who were panicked.

During her experiment, Panagakos said she definitely saw that statistic among her students. Some students even found the positives of staying off their phones.

“They realized that they wasted a lot of time on their phones,” Panagakos said.

Panagakos said she had some of her students tell her that since they couldn’t use their phone they went home and cleaned, talked to their parents more, or they had time to read a book.

This just shows how much people are actually missing in the world when they are constantly attached to their smartphones.

Next time you think about sending that text or tweet, try being connected to the world around you instead.