Not just the young are addicted to phones - GulfToday

Not just the young are addicted to phones

Not just the young are addicted to phones

Obsessive usage of smartphone is linked with stress, depression and anxiety. Reuters

Shappi Khorsandi, The Independent

A study published in BMC Psychiatry has shown that 23 per cent of young people displayed symptoms of addiction to their smartphones. Thank God they haven’t done a study for people over 40. We keep up the pretence that our phone addictions are “work”, but I think we all know that’s a little white lie.

I haven’t conducted a formal study but I would stick my neck out and confirm that 100 per cent of 46 year-old women called Shappi, who are currently writing a column at their kitchen table, also have a problematic relationship with their smartphones.

When I was in Year Seven (or middle school, as it was called in the olden days), our headmaster had to give us all a stern talking-to in assembly. Locals had complained that some children were so absorbed in the books they were reading on the way home that they weren’t paying attention to the road. That’s what we did back then: we walked and read, glanced left and right then stuck our noses back in the book as we crossed.

Nowadays, though, that book would be a phone and I’d be looking at an Instagram story rather than the more traditional paper sort. I used to read a lot, right up until I started university (and discovered booze). I didn’t talk to anyone, I wanted my meals on my own in my room so I could read, rather than engage, and if I was pulled away from my book I was tetchy and cross. I read instead of doing my homework and I read instead of having friends.

I have no doubt that if I was a teenager today I would be so glued tight to my phone that if a tornado struck I’d have a passing thought of “it’s got nippy, might need a cardie” – and not look up. When cigarettes were first invented, people didn’t know how harmful they were. They just puffed away thinking it was utterly delightful to be able to inhale this relaxing, toxic fumes deep into their lungs, and so what if they started to fancy another one half an hour later? Everyone was doing it so it became a sociable thing.

Obviously the physical side-effects of phones are nothing like smoking but we are, after a couple of decades with smartphones, realising that not everyone is able to lay boundaries around their usage. Addicts will get addicted to whatever is on offer. Phones can’t give you emphysema, of course, or make you smell but obsessive usage has found to be linked with stress, depression and anxiety.

We are still relatively new to smartphones, a decade or two is nothing really and we are only just starting to flag up the fact that some of us cannot put our phones down. Constant messaging, checking and rechecking our apps, always looking for that message or information that will give us a hit of dopamine.

It took me long time before I acknowledged it was a problem, when my daughter was a toddler she fell into a pond. It was in the garden of a friend’s house, camouflaged by duckweed. I was a couple of yards behind her and realised, too late, that it was water and in she toppled. I jumped in after her and yanked her out (she’d slipped on sludge and was fully submerged for a second – terrifying). Soon after she was bathed and warm, wrapped in a towel and drinking hot chocolate, all safe.

I had a little cry of relief as the shock of what a different day it might have been had I not been so close to her in the garden sank in. My son was about seven at the time and said, “were you on your phone mummy? When she fell in?” I hadn’t been. My phone hadn’t been with me. But it easily could have been. It just happened not to have been. But the fact that my son immediately assumed his sister fell in a pond because his mum had been distracted by her phone devastated me. That’s how he saw me: a woman constantly looking at her screen.

Since then I changed things. If I’m hanging out with the kids, my phone gets put away. Columns are a different story, though. I’ve checked my phone about 17 times while writing this. It’s an addiction, after all. I can only hope none of you fell into a pond while I wrote this!