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Say Hello to Your Newest Addiction

Our phones have become our best friends, but is it a healthy relationship?

One moment I’m relaxed, reading quietly. The next, I’m frantically digging down into my bag to answer the bark or the buzz to read—what’s surely got to be—a life-saving email. My only solace in realizing I’m conditioned like this, is knowing I’m not alone. On any given day, I’ll look up during my morning commute to see that everyone around me is staring into their phones.

If someone would have told me five years ago that I’d soon find myself having to make a concerted effort to not look at an electronic device every two minutes, I’d have laughed in their face. But the fact is, I do have to make the effort.

I’ve often wondered if it could be that me—and the rest of my fellow commuters—could actually be cell phone addicts.

Researchers at Baylor University think so. Their study, published in November in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, asked 191 college students to answer questions about their cellphone use and—in particular—how they exercised control over their use. They asked them questions around their impulsive tendencies and how those tendencies might dictate their use. What they found, according to a December 2012 article, was that “cellphone use, at least among college-age students, did appear to be driven by both materialistic and impulsive tendencies, with those scoring highest in either quality being more likely to excessively use their mobile device.”

This team of researchers have come to the conclusion that the uncontrollable need to text or make a call on our cellphone can simply be lumped together with other classic addictive behaviors such as gambling, compulsive shopping, over-eating, or out of control credit card use. When it comes down to it, they’re all the same.

This study is just one of many of its kind, of course. And as technology continues to evolve and we’re inundated with countless applications and devices, we will undoubtedly continue to learn more and more about what drives our behavior to use such things—including what the short and long-term effects may be.

Armed with this new knowledge about cell phone use, I do feel more compelled to stay disciplined, but it’s an ongoing battle. And while I do feel I’ve become pretty adept at keeping my eyes trained on better things (like books), there are still times when I find myself nervously grabbing for my phone every couple minutes—only to find that ‘life-saving’ email is just another 5 dollar off coupon from PetCareRx.

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