What would you give up to keep your smartphone?

Do you ever think about your relationship with your smartphone? We think about our how we interact with others, such as our partner, children, co-workers, etc. We consider those relationships often, with an understanding that they can significantly impact our health and well-being.  Just look at all the number of articles, books and services on the subject. We usually know when those relationships are good for us and when they are not. But what about our smartphones?

I’ve interviewed people about their relationship with their phones and they’ve said things like “it’s a love/hate thing", "it has taken hold of me", "I panic if it’s not with me", "I wish I didn’t need it" and "I’m highly dependent on it.” If this was a friend of yours describing their relationship with someone else, I bet you’d be concerned and want to help them. But it’s just their phone, so we don’t consider it a problem.

So, how do you feel about your smartphone? If someone asked you to give up your smartphone for a day, what would you do? What about giving it up for a week? Or even longer? Some people are so attached to their phones, they are willing to make significant sacrifices to keep them by their side.

A recent study in British Columbia shows that over two-thirds of adults are willing to pass up their morning cup of coffee for two days to keep their phone with them. Even though we’re very dedicated coffee drinkers in this province, I’m not surprised by the number willing to make this small sacrifice, given the convenience and usefulness our phones provide. And because our weather is quite mild, I also wasn’t shocked at the one-quarter plus who said they would give up heating their home on a cold day so they could keep their phone. However, I was surprised that almost 20% of adults aged 25 to 34 are willing to work one day for free rather than be without their phone for a 24-hour period. And even more surprising were those who would give up seeing their spouse or partner for a day, instead of their phone—one-quarter of adults 25 to 54 and one-third aged 55 to 64. Does that say more about their relationship with their spouse/partner or their relationship with their smartphone? Hard to say.

Let’s look at two other studies, both focused on adults aged 18 to 34. Given they are a generation that hasn’t really known life without smartphones, how much would they sacrifice to keep theirs? In the first, an American study, almost one in three said they would give up their pet for a week before they would give up their phone for the same period. Has man’s best friend been replaced by a phone? In a UK survey, almost four in ten are willing to stop drinking for their phone, which could turn out to be a beneficial trade. However, alarmingly, close to one in four are willing to lose one of their five senses and one in ten are willing to cut off a finger! How can people really think a smartphone is worth going to such extremes?

I would hope that the people making these claims weren’t serious. But even if they weren’t, it sounds like they need to work on developing a healthier relationship with their smartphones. For all the convenience they provide, it’s just that—convenience. And I get just how useful and entertaining they are, I really do, but would I let my phone interfere with my relationships or my health? Not a chance! Technology should improve our lives, not harm it.  

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