In 2007, when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, he said, “Every once in a while, a product comes along that changes everything.”
Twelves years later, the question is not whether or not he was right. Instead, the question is whether or not we like the way we’ve changed.
When you wake up, what is the first thing you do? Pew Research Center says that 44 percent of adolescents say they are reaching for their phones as soon as they wake up in the morning.
When we were younger, the only warning against electronic device usage that I got was from watching too much TV, but these days, we are being warned about much more: iPads and other tablets, laptops and cell phones.
The average American checks his or her phone about 47 times a day–that number drastically increases when looking at the younger generations–and spends around four hours a day looking at its screen. That is roughly a sixth of our total time alive.
Looking at these numbers, it raises a bit of concern about the relationships that we have with our electronic devices. The question of whether to describe our obsessive behaviors as an addiction is controversial, but in the long run, it doesn’t really matter what we call it.
My assumption is that the majority of people do not like the way that our relationships with our electronic devices have changed us. We feel busy but ineffective. Connected but lonely.
So at what point does our electronic device usage become too detrimental to our health?
For years, studies have indicated that spending significant time parked in front of a screen lowers cardiovascular health outcomes and increases mortality risks.
According to Department of Epidemiology, Ottawa Public Health, as use of these devices increase, so does the risk of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, ADHD and mood disorders. Adolescents who use their devices for more than two hours a day report significantly more mental health problem symptoms, increased psychological distress and more suicidal ideation.
We frequently attempt to reach out for support or validation on social media in the form of likes, clicks or comments. When we don’t get hundreds of likes, or when we don’t get the feedback we want, we get upset. Many people feel the need to be constantly responsive to messages on social media, texts, and chats, which increases anxiety, according to a study done at the University of Glasgow.
Recently, apps like In Moment and Space have been released to help manage the amount of time we spend on our phones, and Apple has even added a feature called Screen Time to show where we spend that time, and for how long. Apps and features like these can drastically improve our relationships with our electronic devices.
People casually use the terms “internet addiction” or “phone addiction” to describe the obsessive uses of devices. Unfortunately, this is a very real phenomenon that’s developed over the years. Knowing the dangerous effects of looking at our electronic devices too often, we should be motivated to take some time away from them when we can, and learn to just be in the moment we are in.