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smartphone addiction (cell phone addiction)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Smartphone addiction is a disorder involving compulsive overuse of the mobile devices, usually quantified as the number of times users access their devices and/or the total amount of time they are online over a specified period.

Compulsive smartphone use is just one type of technology addiction. However, other technologies prone to overuse, like social media and gaming, are often accessed through mobile devices. Smartphones lend themselves to overuse because, unlike a desktop or laptop, they can be easily carried anywhere the user goes. As a result, the devices are increasingly the user's primary computing device. Data plans and near-ubiquitous Wi-Fi make connectivity possible from almost anywhere.

Although phone addiction is not yet classified as a psychological disorder, experts have identified problematic patterns and behaviors. One of the most telling characteristics is the fear of losing access to one's phone or not having connectivity. That anxiety is so widespread that it's been named: nomophobia, a portmanteau that stands for no mobile phone phobia. Telltale signs of phone addiction include never or rarely turning the device off and sleeping with the device nearby, and with sound-based notifications turned on.

In a study conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, researchers took away user access to social media for 24 hours. Participants described their reactions in terms that are very typical of addiction: In withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy.

 

This was last updated in May 2018

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