‘I can’t find my phone!’ – have you ever experienced the sheer panic of misplacing your beloved device? What if you had to go without it for a few days, a week, a month? Could you survive without your phone or have you become so dependent on mobile phone usage that the thoughts of losing battery power fills you with dread. Today, we ask, how often do you check your phone?
The Situation as it Stands
It’s pretty obvious from spending any amount of time on public transport that we are a mobile device nation. Every morning and evening as soon as people pile onto their bus or train and grab a seat, the first thing most people do is take out their phone or tablet to entertain themselves. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but if we were to watch these people throughout the day we would find that they check their phones on a regular basis, perhaps too regularly, in some cases.
In recent years, phones have changed and so has our mobile phone usage. Phones are constantly evolving in terms of the service they can offer. When Facebook and Twitter began, we accessed them on a computer. Now, they live in our pocket and of course, social media has exploded too. At the risk of showing my age, once upon a time we had sites called MySpace and Bebo. Then Facebook came along and was popularly referred to as ‘Bebo for grown-ups’. It’s funny to recall how we spoke about it in its early days when now 67% of Irish people are members. It’s not just Facebook though, a whole host of other social media sites have popped up and are continuing to emerge, many of which offer instant messaging.
Mobile Phone Usage Stats
Ipsos MRBI statistics show that 74% of Irish Facebook users connect to it daily, while 59% of Instagram users do the same, a figure that’s on the rise. In terms of social media messaging, over half of Irish people have both Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. Although the percentage of Snapchat users is smaller, at 28%, 67% of those users connect daily, followed by 59% of WhatsApp users.
ComReg has observed that the number of voice calls is pretty static with an annual increase of just a 1% in the last year. Text messaging and multimedia messaging are dropping away at 16.4% and 11.7% respectively while data usage continues to soar with a yearly increase of 68.8%. This leaves no doubt as to how we’re using our phones. Mobile phone usage hasn’t risen because we’re spending all day calling our mates, it is social media and social media messaging that keeps us checking our phones constantly.
First World Problems
Not only has the way we use our phones changed so that we have more screen time rather than voice time, but the last strongholds of no mobile phone zones, are now being eroded. Until a few years ago, you couldn’t use a phone on a flight, now you can! And lest you might run out of battery charge, there’s plenty of small, handy portable charging devices available so that you never have to be without it. Yes, we stock them at Pair Mobile!
We live in an always-on world, but that means that we too are always on. It is now completely acceptable for people to check their phones late at night, after turning the light off. We tend to leave our phones on through the night and check them first thing on waking, too. There has to be something wrong with that. It’s just not normal, is it? Mobile phone addiction is real. Just like people may deny that they often drink too much if someone was to challenge us on our mobile phone usage we’d scoff at the suggestion that we had a problem. ‘I’m just being sociable’ is a valid excuse, except when you’re ignoring the real-life person sitting across from you to check your latest updates. Have you ever asked a friend a question while they’re on the phone and not gotten a response? Though I’ve been guilty of it myself, I know it’s so annoying! Eventually, the person looks up and goes ‘huh?’
Mobile phone addictions, like any other addiction, reveal themselves when they start to get in the way of your daily activities. If you can’t have a meal or go to the bathroom without checking your phone halfway through, it may be that your phone usage is getting out of control. If you feel that it might be interesting to monitor your phone usage and see how much you really use it, there are a range of apps like BreakFree that will do this for you.
Now that you know how often you actually check your phone, what can you do if you want to reduce your dependency on it?
While some advocate for a phone detox to help deal with addiction, it can be hard – and stressful. If you’re up for the challenge, you could try leaving your phone off for a day first. Then stretch it out to a weekend. Before mobile phones we had to make plans before leaving the house and stick to them, no-one was reachable otherwise. Make plans to actually go out and meet people face to face, scheduling time to spend with friends and family is invaluable. We are social creatures and we need human interaction, not just screen time.
If switching off is proving difficult, there are apps which can help.Flipd distraction blocker allows you to set how long you wish to limit your access to your phone for and essentially lock you out for that amount of time. This overrides your will power and can help you to succeed. Alternatively, you could use an app like HabitBull to give you positive feedback when you perform well with your habit building.
What’s the Point?
The benefits to switching off are great!
- Better Relationships
First and foremost, you get to have actual conversations with actual people, without the need for any ‘middle man’. We miss out on eye contact, body language and physical affection when we communicate on our phones. Yes, a phone is a handy way to keep in touch, but it was never intended to replace one to one time.
- Get More Done
You may also find that you are more productive, dare we say it, both at work and in your personal life. Have you ever lost half an hour to social media? I know I have. You just nip in to check one notification and thirty minutes later you realise that you’ve been reading stuff that you didn’t really care about. This eats into our free time – and let’s face it, weekends are short enough as they are!
- Quality Rest
A better night’s sleep can be another great benefit! Sleep experts recommend that we start winding down for bed about an hour beforehand. This means taking a warm drink, slowing down the mind and eliminating stressors from our environment. Electrical devices emit light and noise which can and does keep our mind alert. This is not to mention the content we may be consuming right before bed. Try powering down an hour before bed and not switching your phone back on until after your breakfast. If nothing else, at least notifications won’t wake you during the night.
Mobile phones help us out in so many aspects of our day to day lives that it has become increasingly difficult to be parted from them for any length of time. We do need to remember that they are a tool to assist us, not control us. By all means, love your phone. But keep an eye on your mobile phone usage and don’t forget to switch it off from time to time to spend time with the people who matter in your life.