Smartphone Addiction & How to A-ditch it – Stu Bradley

In the past week or two there has been a considerable batch of ‘we’re addicted to smartphones’ articles appearing, including my previous article for The Social Penguin.  I can’t help but notice that despite offering a number of statistics and information about the ‘problem’ (if that’s how we perceive it), the overarching sentiment in these articles tends to be ‘Oh well, that’s just how it goes.’

I recently set myself a challenge…one day, no phone, no Facebook, no Twitter.  Simple enough in theory, but a totally different matter when put into practice!  For example, I found myself lost at one point and instinctively reached into my pocket to consult Google Maps.  But alas…my phone wasn’t there to help me, and I had to ask someone for directions.  I’d love to tell you that the person was a delight and they’re my new best friend, since that would ‘prove something’ but it was a very simple exchange – ‘It’s just down there.’ ‘Nice one, cheers.’  However, I have since realised that whenever I check where I’m going on Google Maps or even the time, I inevitably check Twitter, Facebook, emails etc.

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During my day off (Bueller…Bueller…Bueller), I also realised that 90% of people are…well, nuts.  When I returned home, I had a bunch of missed calls and text messages asking where I was and whether I was ok.  Now, one might be inclined to think ‘oh, how loved I am, that’s nice’, but being a massive cynic I instead found myself irritated that people were so concerned by someone being off the grid for a few hours.  ‘Don’t feel like picking up my phone, so leave a message at the tone’ sings Bruno Mars in his latest song – if someone like me gets this much attention for being unreachable, I can only imagine how annoyed he must get after a day of ‘not doin’ anything’.

I’m about to make it very obvious I used to study psychology, so apologies in advance, but I find this whole thing quite symptomatic of a very real change in human behaviour.  People often whinge at me, ‘Where IS my boyfriend/girlfriend?! Why haven’t they texted me back? What if they’re cheating on me!!!’  In my opinion, these people need to relax – this perceived need to be constantly ‘in touch’ is clearly causing an epidemic of insecurity that goes further than just communication, and affects people’s behaviour much more significantly.  An increasing number of individuals seem terrified of their own company.  Whether they’re showering or making scrambled eggs, many seem to need to be doing things like listening to music or watching TV all the time – it’s as if they’re afraid of the silence that comes with being out of contact with the real world.

Now, I’m not your mum, so I’m not going to say ‘right, stop using your smartphone for at least five hours every week’ or anything like that.  However, I really would recommend taking a break from it all now and then – if you find it makes you angsty, fine, maybe that’s just your personality.  But who knows, you might just find a little time off the grid as liberating as I do…

We’d love to hear any comments you’ve got on this subject – can you handle going without your smartphone or do you need to be ‘in touch’ all the time?  Do you think that taking breaks (even if they’re at the weekend) would hinder you in your career?

Stu Bradley is a regular guest blogger on The Social Penguin Blog and a recovering smart phone addict.

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  • Carrie

    I had to be without my phone (unwillingly) over the weekend. I was surprised how much I relied on it for everything!

  • Milo

    Good points Stu. I deleted Facebook, Twitter, Reeder and turned off email on my iPhone for 2 weeks and it made a massive difference. There are some really useful apps out there for specific tasks like Google Maps, Spotify, Calculator, Currency etc, but if you’re staring at your phone for more than 10 minutes at a time then you’ve probably got a problem.

  • Liz Pendleton

    Great post (and especially like the picture!) I find the ability to ignore my phone a very liberating one – and I know I’m lucky, but it does surprise and annoy me how much expectation is placed on you to give speedy replies to social media! Just ‘cos I tweet, and communicate through facebook doesn’t mean I’m on standby just waiting for your message or that I will reply in the next few minutes. So what if it takes a day!? People need to chill out! :)

  • Stu Bradley

    Glad to see some other people enjoy a bit of time away from the phone, and that it’s not just me!

    Last night was a particularly interesting example of smartphone addiction – I used Twitter a LOT to track the riots, got really worried when I read about sightings of people with petrol bombs lurking around where my office is, but then no damage this morning.

    As a lot of people have commented on the current situation, Twitter is just as good for misinformation (c.f. the army being mobilised and tigers on the loose!) as it is for discovering things early!


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