Mobile Making Me Mental

Posted: 23 May 2019 in Cultural, Understanding Others
Tags: ,

Phone daze.jpgAfter the honeyoon, comes the fall back to earth.  My new companion always wants to chat in the middle of the night.  Wants to know what I’m up to and will never switch off.  And there’s jealousy in the family too.  My wife tells me I prefer the new phone to her (“exchanging for the latest model” takes on a new meaning).  Notifications: were a major the enemy.  Chirps and squeaks at all hours.  WhatsApps from Haiti, when their 10pm rumination caused my phone lighting up and tinkling at 4am.

Research shows connections between frequent mobile phone use and mental health problems.  A large study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health November 2018 showed

mobile phone use at bedtime was associated with, e.g., shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality. Problematic use (dependency) was associated with several negative outcomes. In conclusion, associations between mobile phone use and adverse mental health outcomes are found in studies that take a psychological or behavioural perspective on the exposure.

The Guardian last year did a time trail on a panel of people in various jobs.  A broadcaster was averaging over 4 hours a day on 57 pickups.  A scientist almost 6½ hours on 75 pick ups a day.  An entrepreneur with just under 4 hours  and 88 pickups.  A personal trainer on a staggering 8¼ hours a day with 95 pickups.  These were staggering lengths of time.  But was I any better?

So I installed an app to measure my Mobile use too.  I was using the little beast just under an hour a day (relief), but on an average of 33 unlocks a day (still a lot).  So compared to the Guardian panel each of my uses was shorter.  It was good to see that Saturdays were quieter, and Sundays were quieter still.  And for those that are just curious, my most used App was the browser (esp’ BBC news, Wikipedia), followed by WhatsApp then Calendar.

The Guardian panel members were measured again after the initial analysis.  A third made no change, a half a significant cut, and a sixth – a drastic cut in use.  I wanted to reduce the temptation, to use the phone in a deliberate manner. I set the phone to automatically switch off 2300-0600.  This is really useful.  Turn off all notifications except where singly set (as on the Calendar). And a Digital Sabbath?  I’ve not gone that far, though there’s no work email peeping on Sundays.

But I admit, leaving the phone at home when going out?  It causes modest anxiety.  The little black square is still always by my side.  This is no trivial issue.  Oliver Burkeman quotes other research showing “the visible presence of one’s mobile phone on the table was enough to disrupt performance at certain brain taxing tasks. The phone didn’t need to ring; it just had to ‘crouch, ready to ring’”.


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