Friday 9 December 2016

Over-use of smartphone stifles our creativity

Patricia Casey

Published 15/11/2016 | 02:30

Research has shown that on average a person checks their phone almost 200 times a day
Research has shown that on average a person checks their phone almost 200 times a day

I hesitate to use the term 'addiction' in the same phrase as 'smartphone' because no such addiction is recognised at present in psychiatry. All kinds of excessive behaviours are classified in the public mind as addictions such as sex, internet and porn, even though none of these is recognised in any of the official classification in psychiatry.

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Smartphone 'addiction' is similarly not recognised, although many behaviours linked to our gadgets are habit forming and can take up valuable time while also intruding into peoples' lives and relationships.

For these behaviours to be called addictions they would have to produce changes in the brains of those afflicted similar to those caused by cocaine or alcohol and withdrawal symptoms also.

Although falling short of the definition of an addictive behaviour, there are aspects of owning and using smartphones that are problematic for many.

A 2013 study conducted by Harris Interactive, for the mobile company Jumio, found that among more than 1,000 adults in the US, 9pc reported cell use during sex, 33pc when on a dinner date, 55pc while driving, 12pc in the shower, and 19pc in a place of worship.

Research also suggests that the average person checks their smartphone 190 times per day and that many do it automatically simply because it is nearby.

Many cannot countenance being without their mobile and are in a state of constant alert for text messages and calls.

Even when we're with friends many keep the mobile on the table beside us and even in conversation with others, we're holding our gadget.

On buses and trams you will see people repeatedly scrolling down their texts ready to pounce when the latest message arrives.

The aircraft that has just landed gives people an immediate excuse to frantically turn it on even before the gate has been reached as a 100 pings fill the air simultaneously. The tweeters are easy to identify because their fingers are seldom at rest.

Our smartphone is almost an appendage, like a limb. Even in bed we have to remind ourselves where the smartphone is charging and if it is accessible.

Do we ever have time away from our smartphone - time to doodle, to contemplate the scenery or to dream up new ideas? Is the smartphone stifling our creativity?

Clinging to the mobile like a valuable clutch bag is not conducive to creative experiences. One student of human behaviour and computers has coined the term 'nomophobia' (no mobile phone phobia) for the separation anxiety many experience when they are without their mobile.

But smartphones are not innately destructive.

Rather the problem lies with users who have allowed their lives to be dominated by this gadget.

On a positive note, smartphones allow us to build our knowledge as and when we feel like it.

Attending a lecture on some topic, our smartphone will allow us to spot-check facts presented and to obtain further information to enhance and deepen our knowledge there and then.

There is the safety aspect - particularly for teenagers and young adults who can call for help if stranded without a lift home from a party. And the days of standing in a faulty coin box to call a cab are gone as we can now simply add an app for this service.

As I write, I can identify with many of the behaviour and emotions smartphone users experience.

I'm probably similar to droves of other users. Does that make us smartphone addicts or nomophobic? No, it does not. A bad habit is only that until it begins to adversely affect day-to-day living such as work, relationships and hobbies.

In many cases the bad habit is not the use of the smartphone itself but what it delivers such as porn, or items for hoarders to purchase on eBay.

It should come as little surprise that smartphones are so popular.

Humans are social animals and these gadgets facilitate our rapid communication with others and with and about the world around us.

For every problem with the use of smartphones their sensible use, and the multitude of benefits that accrue from them, more than compensates.

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