"Watching people who get their first smartphone, there's a very quick progression from having a basic phone you don't talk about to people who love their iPhone, name their phone and buy their phones outfits," said Lisa Merlo, director of psychotherapy training at the University of Florida.
For humans, smartphone addiction can manifest itself in many ways, such as:
- Utilizing the phone to avoid human interaction (He's not talking to his mother; he's talking to his phone.)
- Becoming so engrossed in the phone that everything else is completely tuned-out ("Dude. Dude! Helllllllo?")
- Excessively using the phone at the expense of work productivity, personal health, or the well-being of others (Dnt Txt & Drv)
- Becoming so reliant on the phone that one can't function without it (A telltale sign of addiction)
- Spending more money on data plans than they can afford (the average wireless access bill for smartphone users is now $107 per month)
- Using the phone before going to bed, thus increasing cognitive arousal and creating sleeping problems
Michelle Hackman, a recent high school graduate, won a $75,000 prize in Intel's Science Talent search by conducting research on teen attachment to smartphones. She found that when students were separated from their phones, they became understimulated - their heart rates were lower and they lacked the ability to entertain themselves. This is a sure sign of partial dependency.
Smartphone addiction may not simply be an anomaly; it might be a herald of a complete change in how humans interact socially. We are more connected to others than we have ever been, and smartphones have become key mediums through which we can interface with millions of people and a vast amount of information. But this digital connectivity may be creating personal disconnection. As people become more dependent on smartphones, will the devices act as a detriment to direct human interaction? A study on a grand-scale is certainly needed to address this increasingly pertinent question.