The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Are Addicted to Your Smartphone?

Guess which answer I chose.

No, really. It’s a serious question. Serious enough to be studied.

AddictedBritons’ appetite for Facebook and social networks on the go is driving a huge demand for smartphones – with 60% of teenagers describing themselves as “highly addicted” to their device – according to new research by the media regulator, Ofcom.

Almost half of teenagers and more than a quarter of adults now own a smartphone, with most using their iPhone or BlackBerry to browse Facebook and email.

The study, published on Thursday, also shows that smartphones have begun to intrude on our most private moments, with 47% of teenagers admitting to using their device in the toilet. Only 22% of adults confessed to the same habit. Unsurprisingly, mobile-addicted teens are more likely than adults to be distracted by their phones over dinner and in the cinema – and more would answer their phone if it woke them up.

I know how this is going to sound coming from someone with my history, but I don’t think I’m addicted to my iPhone.

Well, I’m not addicted to using it to check Facebook and Twitter, which the article indicates is driving “smartphone addiction” in Briton. Same goes for email. I’m not one of those people who constantly checks email via their smartphone.

iPhone addictThere I was at a long-awaited dinner with friends Saturday night, when in the midst of our chatting, I watched my right hand sneaking away from my side to grab my phone sitting on the table to check my e-mail.

“What am I doing?” I thought to myself. “I’m here with my friends, and I don’t need to be checking e-mail on a Saturday night.”

The part that freaked me out was that I hadn’t told my hand to reach out for the phone. It seemed to be doing it all on its own. I wondered what was wrong with me until I read a recent study in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing that showed I’m hardly alone. In fact, my problem seems to be ubiquitous.

The authors found smartphone users have developed what they call “checking habits” — repetitive checks of e-mail and other applications such as Facebook. The checks typically lasted less than 30 seconds and were often done within 10 minutes of each other.

On average, the study subjects checked their phones 34 times a day, not necessarily because they really needed to check them that many times, but because it had become a habit or compulsion.

If I’m commuting to or from work, I might be using my iPhone to read items that I save to Instapaper or Read It Later, since my morning and evening commutes are about the only uninterrupted reading time I have before 9:00 p.m. on week days. (These days, I’m more likely to be reading stuff on my Kindle that I’ve sent to Instapaper or Readability.) If I’m not reading something on my iPhone, and I’m commuting, I probably have my earbuds in while I’m playing a game to pass the time. (It’s more fun than listening to the noises of the train, or the conversationsof my fellow commuters.) If I think of something I want to look up on Google, I’ll use the iPhone as a kind of instant reference. I might also use it to read Google News, to catch up on reading non-work-related news.

Basically, I use my iPhone as a way to “fit in” certain things that I otherwise wouldn’t have time for. The technology allows me to do certain things “on the go,” that would have required more dedicated time that I don’t really have to spare. So, it fills the little spaces of time and allows me to get to things I just wouldn’t otherwise.

OK. My phone does indeed go everywhere with me. Yes. Everywhere. There are a couple of exceptions. One of them is family dinner. Plus, if I’m engaged in something on my phone, and my husband or one of the kids is talkign to me, the put the phone to sleep, put it away, and give them my complete attention. (Or as close I can to my full attention, given my ADD.) Likewise if I’m on the computer, I turn away from computer so they know I’m at least making an effort to listen, and give them my attention.

But beyond that, it goes everywhere with me. Before I go to bed, I might be reading something, playing a game, or looking something up. When I go to sleep, the iPhone goes into an iHome alarm clock that has a handing charging dock. And I grab it first thing in the morning, after I’m dressed, and ready to wake Parker up and get him fed, dressed, ect., and out the door.

So, while I use my iPhone alot, I can’t say I suffer any of the symtoms of a “habitual checker.”

How to know if you’re a habitual checker

1. You check your e-mail more than you need to.

Sometimes you’re in the middle of an intense project at work and you really do need to check your e-mail constantly. But be honest with yourself — if that’s not the case, your constant checking might be a habit, not a conscious choice.

2. You’re annoying other people.

If, like Frank, you’re ticking off the people closest to you, it’s time to take a look at your smartphone habits.

“If you hear ‘put the phone away’ more than once a day, you probably have a problem,” says Lisa Merlo, a psychologist at the University of Florida.

3. The thought of not checking makes you break out in a cold sweat.

Try this experiment: Put your phone away for an hour. If you get itchy during that time, you might be a habitual checker.

1. Like I said, I don’t use it to check email all that much, unless there’s a reason I need to check in with my work email before I get to the office or after I leave. Usually, if I’m checking email, I’m sitting in front of a computer.

2. As far as I know, I haven’t been annoying people. Not the people closest to me, because I put the phone away when I’m interacting with them. There have been a couple of times when I’ve gotten a “look” for slipping it out during a meeting at work. But, given my ADD, even without the smartphone no meeting longer than 30 minutes is going to hold my attention. (Maybe close to 20 minutes, actually.) Take away my phone, and I’ll just sit there and daydream.

3. The thought of not checking my phone doesn’t freak me out. It might annoy me a little, like an all day retreat where the rule is “no laptops/smartphones” during group activities, but I’m not going to break out in a cold sweat.

I fact, I can put the phone away for a whole hour without getting “itchy.” I have, actually. If I’m at a social event, or a movie, etc., I won’t check it at all. When I’m with the kids, I can easily go an hour without checking it. They usually keep me busy enough that I don’t have time to think about it much. Likewise, if we’re doing something together as a family.

So, am I addicted to my smartphone? I don’t think so. I can put it away anytime I want to.

It’s just that sometimes I dont’ want to.

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