The rise of the screen addiction

By Jack Kelly
Can you imagine drinking from your water bottle or opening your backpack 150 times a day? According to Sanna Chu of the International Digital Times, phone users, on average, check their phones 150 times a day. Evidently we have some bizarre addiction to our pocket sized pieces of technology.

When walking around campus it’s hard not to notice students buried in their 4-inch screens. A few surveys that Chu discussed have revealed that 17 to 24 percent of us feel a personal connection to our phones. I know I do. So what is it that is so intoxicating about our phones? And more importantly, how is our phone use affecting us?

Our phones are an extension of ourselves, especially through the use of social media.

I sat down with Dr. Galvan, a psychology professor at USD who is published for her research on how phones distract us. She told me about her study in which three participants entered a room, two of whom were the conductors of the study and one who was the subject.

All three participants were given a task to do while the conductor left the room. Either the two assistants started talking with one another in person, or one of them started talking on the phone. Neither scenario distracted the actual test taker more, but for whatever reason the participant was able to remember more about the phone call than the in-person conversation. Interesting to say the least.

She later informed me of additional studies she had researched in which cell phones distracted us from reality. People on cell phones are more likely to miss a unicycling clown in the park or some other strange attractions.

According to Fox News, recently in San Francisco, a man on a commuter train began twirling and pointing a gun around without anyone noticing because they were so engrossed on their phones. He ended up shooting someone. There is plenty of evidence to show us that these devices are very distracting.

Have you ever been annoyed with your friend, who is consumed with a text even though you’re in the middle of a conversation? I have. Interestingly, we often report that we are annoyed by others phone use but don’t report, or realize, that we are in fact annoying others.

All of these accounts point to the principle of urgency. For whatever reason, we lead ourselves to believe that the notifications on our phones need immediate attention.

Should we be concerned about all this? It seems as though our extensive use of social networks and texting is damaging our ability to communicate in real life. I asked Dr. Molitor, another psychology professor at USD about this aspect.

“When we are developing we need to see faces and expressions to come to understand social cues. Without in-person practice, our socializing could be damaged,” Molitor said.

She told me that this was her personal speculation, but it makes plenty of sense to me. As we proceed forward in this world filled with advancing technology, we should be wary of the way it is affecting us. It seems as though the only suitable way to practice technology without letting it take over our lives is to realize that it needs to be done in moderation without allowing it affect our interaction with the real world around us.