When I came across this story about a person getting killed in an attempt to retrieve a cellphone that had fallen on rail tracks, I was saddened but not surprised. Some people are really attached to their phones, seeing them as almost their lifeline to the rest of the world and feel lost and isolated if separated from it.
A study from Baylor and Seton Hall universities says that young adults typically send about 110 texts, receive 113 texts, and check their phones about 60 times a day. On average they spend about seven hours a day with interactive communication technology. This seems to me like shockingly high numbers. What could such a large number of messages contain? Are they merely chit-chat?
The article suggests that cell phone addiction may not be a passing youthful fad because it shares many features with other addictions. It is also positively correlated with materialistic consumer behavior and impulsiveness. You can read the full paper here. Other reports have noted the similarities between the rewards generated by cell phone use and gambling.
I consider myself to be addicted to the internet but not to cell phones. I spend a lot of time each day at the computer, writing and reading, and this often involves going to the web to read about news. But I almost never send or receive texts and hate talking on the phone. My preferred mode of communication with others is email, which I do not check until 10:00 am or so and then sporadically during the day.
But I don’t think that I have the symptoms of a genuine addiction. For example, last week I spent a lot of time on the road driving and did not feel any withdrawal symptoms of not being on the internet. In fact, I enjoyed the sense of isolation and solitude that driving affords. Very few people know my cell phone number and I would not answer it while driving anyway. I use the phone only for emergencies and to store my address book and calendar.