I first heard about the survey on radio about a week ago: 46% of respondents wish smart phones had never been invented!
I was stunned at the number. Could it be true? Was the survey credible? I Googled it and found tons of other stations that had reported the result. Then I found the research firm and, Yes, the survey was credible.
The Survey of 2000 British adults (I doubt it’s much different here) was actually about stress and relaxation. It reported that millennials, on average, relax only about an hour a day, the primary reason being that they are constantly checking their cellphones. But older people are not much better, relaxing only about 90 minutes a day.
In fact, six in 10 respondents admitted that they never truly relax because they are always checking their phones for new emails, texts, tweets, etc. Nine in ten respondents reported that they check their phones regularly even when they know there are no new messages to read, and 10% said they struggle to go ten minutes without checking their phone.
We live in a highly stressed society. And smart phones are just increasing our anxiety levels, it seems. Beyond our personal dependence on the phone, I think the anxiety is increased by the unstated expectation that we must now be constantly available. We are delinquent if we haven’t responded to a text message within ten minutes. That’s likely why almost half of respondents wished smart phones had never been invented.
Is it an addiction? It seems most of us now treat our phones as an extension of ourselves. Like our wallet or house key, we would never go anywhere without it. I admit guilt on this one.
Most of us would agree, I’m sure, that reducing the stress in our lives would be healthy for us. I’m trying to work on that myself. Nearly two years ago I developed Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. I’ve tried diets to reduce or heal it but, ultimately, I’m convinced that it has more to do with stress than anything because, occasionally, it stops for brief periods, and those respites seem to correlate with times when I am more relaxed. I noticed its absence when I was hiking for three days this summer in an area that was—get this–out of cellphone service.
The survey reported that dependence on the smart phone is actually taking away our ability to relax. A third of respondents reported being at a loss of what to do with themselves besides stare at their phone when they have nothing else going on.
Those who did find ways to relax reported doing such things as watching TV, reading a book, going for, or taking their dog for, a walk, and listening to the sound of the ocean or of rainfall. But only 14% reported actually putting their phones down for awhile, to reduce stress.
Seems to me that less addiction to our phones would improve our lives. Clearly, we’re not going to de-invent the darn things. But maybe we can reduce our dependence on them and the expectations we have of one another, to give us more control over our schedules, and then be more deliberate about relaxing.
So here is my modest proposal: that we remove the burden of feeling obliged to respond to cell phone messaging immediately. Let’s be OK with turning off notifications and consider it acceptable to respond only when we feel like responding.
It’s just one step, to be sure, but it should break some of the dependence we have on our phones, and thus alleviate some of the stress in our lives.
At least, that’s how I see it . . .