US average of 3 hrs 40 min a day on mobile devices

A new report shows that Americans are spending more time on their mobile devices:

U.S. consumers spend, on average, three hours and 40 minutes each day on their mobile devices, an increase of 35% from a year ago in the second quarter of 2014. And that time spent on mobile devices continues to increase, said Simon Khalaf, senior vice president of publishing products at Yahoo.

Globally there are 280 million “mobile addicts,” who use apps more than 60 times daily. Effectively, “these folks are conducting their lives on mobile,” Khalaf said. Regular users access apps up to 16 times daily, Flurry’s research found.

Over the last six months, the average time consumers spend on their phones or devices has increased by 43 minutes, or 24%, he said. “This is the mobile revolution,” Khalaf said. “There hasn’t been a single industry that hasn’t been disrupted by mobile and its applications.”

Khalaf revealed the findings Wednesday at Yahoo’s mobile developer conference in New York. The new data, also posted on the Yahoo Developer Tumblr page, came from mobile analytics company Flurry, which he was CEO of when Yahoo acquired Flurry in July 2014, and other sources including comScore and NetMarketShare. Flurry tracks 720,000 apps across two billion mobile devices.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. If the time on mobile devices is up so much, what other activities decreased in time? Perhaps some users have shifted time from other devices – like television or computers – but this data also might be based on double counting time (watching TV and on a mobile device). More multitasking with phone in hand might be the culprit here.
  2. The phrase “mobile addicts” seems odd here. Typically when we refer to addictions, we are referencing something that negatively interferes with other areas of life. However, attendees at a mobile developer conference might see this addiction as a good thing (more customers!) and Khalaf says people “are conducting their lives on mobile.” Is this addiction (probably not) or just a new normal?

The rise of nomophobia

Smartphones have greatly increased in number as has our need to have them nearby:

Nomophobia is a term describing a growing fear in today’s world — the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact. Among today’s high school and college students, it’s on the rise. An increasing number of college students now shower with their cell phone. The average adolescent would rather lose a pinky-finger than a cell phone. A growing percentage text or tweet instead of actually talking to others.

Nomophobia is everywhere in industrialized nations. The term is an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia,” which was coined during a 2010 study by the UK Post Office. The Post Office commissioned YouGov, a research organization, to look at anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that nearly 53 percent of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.”

The study found that about 58 percent of men and 47 percent of women suffer from the phobia, and an additional 9 percent feel stressed when their mobile phones are off. The study sampled 2,163 people. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed cited keeping in touch with friends or family as the main reason that they got anxious when they could not use their mobile phones. The study compared stress levels induced by the average case of nomophobia to be on par with those of “wedding day jitters” and trips to the dentist…

A full 66 percent of all adults suffer from “nomophobia.”

Unfortunately, this article is short on citing reputable sources outside of one YouGov study in the UK. However, I have seen other similar findings trickle out in recent years.

As I’ve noted before, if this behavior becomes widespread, particularly among normal adults, is it really a problem or phobia? Perhaps the more unusual people are the ones without smartphones or Facebook accounts (they do occasionally pop  up in the college student population) who also may feel odd: peer pressure to join, missing out on information that everyone else seems to have, paying attention to other things more than new technology.

Singapore, other countries, looking to tackle smartphone addiction

Here is a quick overview of concerns about smartphone addiction in Singapore, East Asia, and the United States:

Psychiatrists in Singapore are pushing for medical authorities to formally recognise addiction to the Internet and digital devices as a disorder, joining other countries around the world in addressing a growing problem.

Singapore and Hong Kong top an Asia-Pacific region that boasts some of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, according to a 2013 report by media monitoring firm Nielsen.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-singapore-grapples-smartphone-addiction.html#jCp

Psychiatrists in Singapore are pushing for medical authorities to formally recognise addiction to the Internet and digital devices as a disorder, joining other countries around the world in addressing a growing problem.

Singapore and Hong Kong top an Asia-Pacific region that boasts some of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, according to a 2013 report by media monitoring firm Nielsen.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-singapore-grapples-smartphone-addiction.html#jCp

Psychiatrists in Singapore are pushing for medical authorities to formally recognise addiction to the Internet and digital devices as a disorder, joining other countries around the world in addressing a growing problem…

In the United States, where there are similar concerns about the impact of smartphones on society, a 65 percent penetration rate would not even make the top five in Asia Pacific…

In terms of physical symptoms, more people are reporting “text neck” or “iNeck” pain, according to Tan Kian Hian, a consultant at the anaesthesiology department of Singapore General Hospital…

In South Korea, a government survey in 2013 estimated that nearly 20 percent of teenagers were addicted to smartphones…

A group of undergraduates from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University launched a campaign late last year encouraging the public to put their smartphones in a face-down position when they are with loved ones.

A fascinating topic to watch moving forward with two separate pieces:

1. All technological innovations invite praise and criticism but, of course, it takes some time to observe and think through the long-term effects. In today’s world, we tend to be on the acceptance side of new technology, viewing it as helpful progress that we would be silly to not use to our advantage.

2. This opens up new areas for conversations about addiction. What exactly constitutes smartphone addiction? What happens if large chunks of society are addicted to smartphones? How should it be treated?

My quick guess is that this won’t lead to many fruitful conversations about technology – we’re quite gung-ho at this point – but there will likely be a variety of approaches to smartphone addiction that could vary quite a bit by country and in effectiveness.

New documentary shows China’s Internet addiction camps

A new documentary goes inside Internet addiction facilities inside China:

In a documentary called Web Junkies, filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia go behind the doors at the Daxong Camp in Beijing – one of China’s first of many rehab correctional facilities.

The film captures the expressionless faces of the teens, males mostly, dressed in camo uniform attending the three-to-four month “treatment”, which involves military physical training, medication, therapy sessions and controlled diet in order to reconnect them with society.

The addicts, who mostly are brought in against their will by their parents, stay in barren and bleak cells at night, completely cut off from electronics. Except when they are wired up to machines so psychologists can observe their brain activity. Then, during the day, they sit like specimens in front of a panel of doctors in white coats as they try to reprogram their subject…

The documentary, which is being shown at the Sundance film festival, serves to highlight the psychological and physiological effects of the internet, but also calls into question whether parents are simply using this “disorder” to blame all manner of social issues and behavioural issues.

See the documentary’s website, including a clip from the film, here.

There are several interesting factors at work here:

1. Defining internet addiction itself.

2. Discussion of how to best treat Internet addiction.

3. How this treatment occurs in a country, China, that some Americans view as authoritarian.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile for some people who know much more about this topic to see this documentary, read about what is going on in China to address Internet addiction, and then compare it to treatment options here in the United States.

Research suggests drug addiction influenced by environmental factors

New research from a psychologist suggests environmental factors play a large role in drug addiction:

Then, after that sample of crack to start the day, each participant would be offered more opportunities during the day to smoke the same dose of crack. But each time the offer was made, the participants could also opt for a different reward that they could collect when they eventually left the hospital. Sometimes the reward was $5 in cash, and sometimes it was a $5 voucher for merchandise at a store.

When the dose of crack was fairly high, the subject would typically choose to keep smoking crack during the day. But when the dose was smaller, he was more likely to pass it up for the $5 in cash or voucher.

“They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” Dr. Hart said. “When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions.”…

“If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure,” Dr. Hart said in an interview, arguing that the caricature of enslaved crack addicts comes from a misinterpretation of the famous rat experiments.

“The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats,” Dr. Hart said. “The rats that keep pressing the lever for cocaine are the ones who are stressed out because they’ve been raised in solitary conditions and have no other options. But when you enrich their environment, and give them access to sweets and let them play with other rats, they stop pressing the lever.”

But, might it not be easier as a society to blame individuals for drug addiction, a lack of willpower, a lack of good decision making rather than deal with the deeper underlying issues in impoverished neighborhoods? As a sociologist, I look at a story like this and see the power of the social conditions to influence an individual’s behaviors: if society offers few good options, drugs seem like a more rational alternative. This work might also fit with arguments Sudhir Venkatesh has made in the last decade or so about urban gangs: they are often characterized as blood-thirsty killers but they might be responding more rationally to contexts with few legitimate ways to achieve societal goals. In fact, as The Wire also suggested, these gangs might be set up as business-like structures that happen to use illegal means to reach commonly sought-after social goals like economic comfort and respect.

h/t Instapundit

First American inpatient hospital Internet addiction facility to open

Internet addiction is a growing topic of discussion and the first hospital inpatient facility to address it is set to open soon in Pennsylvania:

The voluntary, 10-day program is set to open on Sept. 9 at the Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center. The program was organized by experts in the field and cognitive specialists with backgrounds in treating more familiar addictions like drug and alcohol abuse.

“[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,” said Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program. “The Internet is free, legal and fat free.”…

Young and other experts are quick to caution that mere dependence on modern technology does not make someone an Internet addict. The 20-year-old who divides his time between his girlfriend and “World of Warcraft” likely does not require intensive treatment. The program is designed for those whose lives are spiraling out of control because of their obsession with the Internet. These individuals have been stripped from their ability to function in daily life and have tried in the past to stop but cannot…

Last May, the American Psychiatric Association released its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, or DSM-5, for the first time listed “Gaming Disorder” in Section III of the manual, which means it requires further research before being formally identified as a disorder.

This bears watching. This will likely be a real problem for a small subset of the population and yet critics of the Internet could continue to use it to criticize all Internet use. How exactly this is constructed as a social problem (or not) will strongly influence how this is perceived in the United States.

It would be interesting to know why exactly the first hospital facility is being set up in central Pennsylvania. Why not elsewhere?

Study finds cell phone usage linked to addiction, materialism, and impulsiveness

A new study in the Journal of Behavior Addictions argues cell phone usage can be linked to other concerns:

“Cell phones are a part of our consumer culture,” said study author James Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “They are not just a consumer tool, but are used as a status symbol.”…

Roberts’ study, co-authored with Stephen Pirog III, Ph.D., at Seton Hall University, found that materialism and impulsiveness are what drive cell phone addiction.

Cell phones are used as part of the conspicuous consumption ritual and also act as a pacifier for the impulsive tendencies of the user, according to Roberts. Impulsiveness, he noted, plays an important role in both behavioral and substance addictions…

Some studies have shown that young adults send an average of 109.5 text messages a day or approximately 3,200 texts each month. Furthermore, surveys suggest that young adults receive an additional 113 text messages and check their cell 60 times in a typical day…

Data for this study come from self-report surveys of 191 business students at two U.S. universities. Cell phones are used by approximately 90 percent of college students, and said Roberts, “serve more than just a utilitarian purpose.”

New technologies tend to have the potential to allow us to do new things in new ways, often working alongside a narrative of progress, but we need to continually ask whether the use of new technologies can also lead to negative outcomes. We don’t have to be Luddites to suggest that we should evaluate the social changes that accompany technological change.

One question about addiction and mass culture: if a majority or large number of people have more addictive relationships with their cell phones, does it at some point then cease to be addiction and comes to be seen as “normal”?

Is there such a thing as “wealth addiction”?

Citing the writings of a PhD in sociology, a commentator suggests that we should pay attention to wealth addiction:

The Occupy Wall Street and the 99 Percent Movement named the core issue of our time: the overwhelming power of Wall Street and large corporations. Now it’s time we named the problem underlying this issue. It’s called addiction. I’ve been treating addicts for more than 40 years and when I hear the descriptions of those for whom millions and billions of dollars in wealth drives them to want more and more, I know we’re dealing with addiction.

Philip Slater has an A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard and taught sociology at Harvard, Brandeis and UCSC. He is the author of numerous books including Wealth Addiction. He says:

“Those who devote their entire lives to amassing or retaining huge sums of money are neurotically addicted, trying to fill an inner void with money. And since such psychic voids cannot be filled with money — any more than with alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, food, or sex — even a billion dollars doesn’t satisfy them.”We say people who can’t stop drinking when they’ve had enough are alcoholics. We say people who can’t stop eating when they’ve had enough are food addicts. We say that people who can’t stop gambling when they know they should quit are gambling addicts. “But people with a billion dollars who can’t stop trying to make more,” Slater says, “we call successful.”

I imagine this could be a good conversation starter. But this would have to be part of a larger conversation taking place right now about some other kinds of addiction including sex addiction and Internet addiction. Some might ask whether saying billionaires are suffering addiction lets them “off the hook” for amassing so much wealth.

Reflections on reasons some people hold out against smartphones

I found this overview of reasons why some people haven’t yet adopted smartphones to be quite interesting having been one of “those people” up until a few months ago. Here are the five reasons given for why some people haven’t made the switch:

  • Fear of addiction. “I don’t want to end up falling victim to the smartphone, where I dive in and get lost for hours at a time,” dumbphone owner 24-year-old Jim Harig, 24 told The Times‘ Teddy Wayne.
  • The benefits of disconnectivity. “I also fear my own susceptibility to an e-mail-checking addiction,” writes Wayne. “The pressure to always be in communication with people is overwhelming,”  Erica Koltenuk tells the Journal‘s Sue Shellenbarger.
  • Cost. “These die-hards say they are reducing waste and like sidestepping costly service contracts,” writes Shellenbarger.
  • Durability. “I want a phone that you could drop-kick into a lake and go get it and still be able to make a call,” says Patrick Crowley, who bought a new phone 5 years ago.
  • Anti-consumerism. “[David] Blumenthal sees no need to ‘keep running out and buying new things if you can patch them and they hold together,'” explains the Journal.

Until this past December, I would have argued for the first three reasons. Here are my experiences of these three reasons in the four months I have had a smartphone:

1. Fear of addiction. I didn’t want to be a person who pulls out their phone at every dull moment. I don’t think I do this today but the phone is undeniably handy in several situations. Since I love learning and information, it is invaluable to be able to look things up. Also, in moments that where I would have been waiting already, say the barber shop or in line, I can quickly look things up and use my time well (what a rationalization…). Third, a smartphone is indispensable while traveling whether one needs a map, restaurant reviews, airline info, and more. I would say that addiction is hard to combat though.

2. Disconnectivity. I like the occasional experience of being disconnected. In fact, I think it is necessary to disconnect occasionally from all electronic/digital media. Here is my personal measure of addiction: if I can still enjoy a longer period of time (a few hours to a few days) without feeling a consistent need to check my phone, I’m in good shape. The smartphone should be a tool, not my life. The phone can enhance my interaction with others but it can also be a hindrance and I want to be mindful of this. Additionally, I have refused to connect my phone to my work email and I don’t want any apps that would allow me to do work through my phone.

3. Cost. I’m still irritated about this issue but there are cheaper options than the contract carriers. My wife and I got phones from Virgin Mobile and while it is not perfect, it is cheaper than any of the contract options. Perhaps this is simply the price of living in the modern world and considering that these phones are like little computers, it is a worthwhile investment.

All in all, the smartphone world is a nice one even if I have lost the “pride” mentioned in this article of being someone who can still hold out against the powerful forces of technology and consumerism. But I can still be part of the camp that relishes not having an iPhone

60% of British teenagers, 37% of adults “highly addicted” to their smartphones

A recent British study found that many teenagers are “highly addicted” to their smartphones:

Britons’ appetite for Facebook and social networks on the go is driving a huge demand for smartphones – with 60% of teenagers describing themselves as “highly addicted” to their device – according to new research by the media regulator, Ofcom…

The study, published on Thursday, also shows that smartphones have begun to intrude on our most private moments, with 47% of teenagers admitting to using their device in the toilet. Only 22% of adults confessed to the same habit. Unsurprisingly, mobile-addicted teens are more likely than adults to be distracted by their phones over dinner and in the cinema – and more would answer their phone if it woke them up…

Of the new generation of smartphone users, 60% of teenagers classed themselves as “highly addicted” to their device, compared to 37% of adults.

Ofcom surveyed 2,073 adults and 521 children and teenagers in March this year. The regulator defines teenagers as aged between 12 and 15, with adults 16-years-old and above.

Perhaps these results are not that surprising but it leads to several thoughts about addiction:

1. Since this is self-reported, couldn’t the percentage of teenagers and adults who are “highly addicted” actually be higher? If asked, how many people would admit to being “highly addicted” to things that they were actually addicted to?

2. That this many people were willing to say that they are “highly addicted” suggests that this addiction is probably considered to be normal behavior. If everyone or most people are actually addicted to using their smartphones, doesn’t this turn into a norm rather than an addiction in the eyes of the public? In twenty years, when these teenagers are the ones running these surveys, they may not use the same language or terms to describe phone/mobile device/computer use.