We Literally Can't Live Without Our iPhones - InformationWeek

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1/13/2015
11:50 AM
David Wagner
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We Literally Canít Live Without Our iPhones

We have uploaded part of our minds and selves into our phones.

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Not having your phone makes you stupid and unhappy, and it might kill you.

Don't believe me? Try to go into your next meeting without your phone. University of Missouri researchers bet you'll be nervous, less happy, and perform worse cognitively. In fact, you will probably have a deflated sense of self. Your heart rate may go up and your blood pressure will rise. Take the phone back and not only will you perform better, but your blood pressure will be lower than when you gave up the phone. Just like a toddler getting his blankie back.

Yes, we have separation anxiety from our phones. Not only that, but if we're separated from our phones and then reunited with them, we feel better -- like being reunited with a lover back from a business trip. Or like when you go a week without ice cream.

Telling participants they were testing a new wireless blood pressure cuff, researchers asked them to sit quietly and do a simple word search puzzle. Researchers then asked them to report their state of happiness and comfort. Part of the way through the puzzle, the participants were told their phones were interfering with the test, and they were asked to move the phones farther away and take a new test. They again reported their comfort levels and had their blood pressures taken. To top it all off, during the test participants' phones were called -- but participants couldn't answer them.

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Most participants' ability to perform a simple cognitive test dropped, and they reported feeling much less happy. Their blood pressure increased by an average of 6 points (systolic) and 4 points (diastolic). When the phone rang, their systolic blood pressure rose a full 10 points. Once the phones were returned, the average systolic blood pressure was 5 points lower than when the test began.

Granted, I see one major flaw in the test. If you put me in front of an old rotary phone and made it ring, I'd feel stressed by not being able to answer it. Even if the caller is trying to get me to steam clean my rugs, I don't want to miss that call, darn it. But even without the ringing, there was clearly stress involved in phone separation.

Are we really that dependent on our phones? Are they basically pacifiers grown-ups suck on? I say yes. Just look at people on an airplane: Before takeoff, everyone is on their phones getting the last call, tweet (#daplane), or status update (checking in at Gate 23 -- feeling lucky) before they switch to airplane mode. And these days every modern plane has a charger in every seat to prevent boozed-up phone addicts from rushing the flight attendant for more single-serve vodka bottles because they blew through their batteries playing Candy Crush.

And what happens when you land? The second the wheels touch down, everyone whips their phones out to use the 3% battery they saved in order to call people to pick them up. We can't even be bothered to park and meet someone when that person's plane is scheduled anymore.

Am I bothered by the addiction? Not really. A pacifier for a baby is only a problem because it gets in the way of talking on the phone.

Clearly, the only reason this is a problem is that we've uploaded part of our lives into the phone. We're using it as cloud storage for our pictures and our personalities. No problem, as long as we can afford the data plans.

But if you do happen to be separated from your phone, is it a problem? Yes, at least temporarily. I'd like to see studies that show how quickly we bounce back. Does the stress lasts for only an hour -- or for days or weeks? Can you train your brain to give up the phone again?

In the meantime, the researchers suggest that if you're taking a big test or going into an important meeting, make sure your phone is nearby. If you feel like you're without it, you might perform worse. Keep it in your pocket so you aren't stressed and stupid at your big moment.

I suggest that people with blood pressure problems really keep an eye on their phones. I wouldn't want you to have a heart attack because you left your phone at Starbucks.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as phone separation anxiety? Do you experience it? Are you smarter just having your phone in your pocket instead of across the room? Put down your phone just long enough to comment on this. Better yet, comment using your phone. We like the smartest comments we can get.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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eggsjeffeggs
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eggsjeffeggs,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/28/2015 | 10:03:19 PM
This study is not thorough enough to conclude always having our cell with us
as with most addictions, withdrawal from use can cause stress and anxiety. But, after prolonged withdrawal, addiction lessens along with stress and anxiety. 

since smartphone addiction is only maybe mildly adverse, I would say that moderation of use would lead to us feeling even happier then when we were addicted. But here they say stay addicted, its fine, you'll feel better. 

Something feels very wrong about this conlusion. they are proving that smartphone addiction exist, but that we should ignore it?
freespiritny25
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freespiritny25,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2015 | 12:17:09 PM
Re: Managing Cell Phone Stress
@moarsaucer123 I agree, the data plan costs are out of control. I am uncomfortable NOT having a cellphone for emergencies, but I do not need all the bells and whistles either.
freespiritny25
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freespiritny25,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2015 | 12:13:33 PM
Re: We Literally Can't Live Without Our iPhones
I know some people that just cannot stop staring at the screen. Definately addicted. I always keep my phone volume off, especially when I am at work, but I do check the screen every hour for fear the school is calling about my kids or another emergency.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2015 | 12:09:24 PM
Re: Managing Cell Phone Stress
@dave - I need to take another road here.

So the smartphone is our new/first personal assistant?  We were headed there as soon as the computer became portable and/or the PDA kept our contacts. It's just life, now, as we know it. At one point in time (way before our time), there were no locks. So people didn't have keys to lose. Then they had keys to be nervous about and kept in safe places and always checked to know they are "there." Every time period has its own stress inducer.

I'd write more but my battery is low :-)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2015 | 5:14:33 PM
Re: Do they allow phones near you during standardized testing?
@kstaron- My wife is a college professor. She does not confiscate phones nor do her colleagues. I can't say if she is in a minority or not. 

the good news is that having the phone in your pocket seems just as successful as having it on the tab;le next to you.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2015 | 5:11:43 PM
Do they allow phones near you during standardized testing?
clearly I'm an outlier on this test. I usually have to remember where my phone is when asked, then it's 50/50 that it has a dead battery due to neglect. And I agree with the stressor of a phone ringing. We've been trained like Pavlov's dog to respond to a ringing phone. But this reaction could have some serious implications for standardized testing or places where phones aren't feasible. With all the information available through smarphones do they even allow phones in the room during testing anymore? You could drop points off your score simply from phone anxiety. Maybe before a big test or meeting people should practice stepping away from thier phone and doing something else, kind of like when Mom mollified them with TV when Blanky was in the wash.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2015 | 5:44:37 AM
Re: Managing Cell Phone Stress
Cost of phones being one thing, operating these puppies is an even bigger expense. Many data plans are more expensive than a car payment...OK...unless you bought a Ferrari.

I do not have a smartphone. I'd like to have one, but I am not breaking my financial back over the excessive cost of a data plan. Instead I have a prepaid feature phone that cost me 20 bucks to buy and 10 to 20 bucks a year to load minutes on. I am usually at home or at work, for the few times a mobile phone comes in handy the prepaid one does the trick.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
1/14/2015 | 10:41:37 AM
Re: Managing Cell Phone Stress

"...Also, they're not cheap."

 

@David   No doubt and become even more valuable once they are paid off !  : )   The cost of these high end phones  are more expensive than a mac mini.   

Kind of crazy when you think about it but certainly the direction society is heading besides it takes too much time to setup a mac mini everywhere you go.  : ) 

jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/13/2015 | 9:06:39 PM
Re: Tool
Definitely means you need to keep track of that phone, yet I still see so many folks who rely on the device on a minute-by-minute basis and also treat it as almost disposable.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Ninja
1/13/2015 | 8:57:15 PM
Re: Tool
@jagibbons,

That's why most users wait way too long until they report their devices lost or stolen.
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