Are You Addicted To Your Phone Or Just In Denial?
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jun 23 01:15:00 GMT 2004

A new study has come out suggesting that many people are addicted to their mobile phones -- but that may not be a bad thing.

With any popular new technology it seems that there's always a crowd of psychologists waiting to announce an addiction to it -- often with the point of making themselves appear to be an expert in treating such "addictions." There's actually an entire center designed to deal with the problem of internet addiction while another center that normally deals with drug and alcohol addiction wants people to believe that they can also treat SMS addiction. In general, it seems unlikely that these "addictions" really represent a serious "threat" to society compared to other common addictions -- but they're probably much easier to treat and involve customers with a bit more cash to spend on treatment.

With that in mind, it's still interesting to read a new study suggesting that one-third of people surveyed are addicted to their mobile phones. It doesn't seem like the most scientific of studies, as they basically asked people if they could "live without" their mobile phone and many people said no. Others were later determined to be "in denial" about their mobile phone addiction, when further questions on the subject elicited information suggesting they couldn't live without their mobile phone, even if they had said otherwise.

What the study doesn't seem to address, however, is whether this is a good or a bad thing. "Addiction" tends to have a very negative connotation, but if something is really helpful and expands your overall abilities, then what's wrong with having it as a part of your daily life? Besides, do people who say they can't live without their mobile phone really mean they'd die? Many people would say they can't live without their cars, but no one talks about automobile addiction -- and no one seems to die simply because they lose their car or their license to drive.

The study does say that some people are "unable to cope" if they are more than 6 feet away from their mobile phone -- but don't explain how this was determined and what "unable to cope" really means. However, the example last week of how people responded when their phones were confiscated at the US Open gives you some idea. People get angry and are upset that they suddenly can't communicate as easily as they could before. However, no one appears to have died, or even to have needed medical attention from their sudden communications blackout.

The study also points out that youngsters in the 10-to-14-year-old range are the next generation of mobile phone addicts called "m-agers" (apparently Generation Y is all grown up and someone forgot to tell the study's writers to use Generation Z). Once again, though, it's not entirely clear what's so dangerous about the so-called addiction to mobile phones. The description talks about how these kids are actually very technology savvy when it comes to using the various features on their mobile phones, which suggests that they'll also learn to use them to make their own lives more productive. It's always worrisome if people are using technology for destructive purposes, or to make their lives worse in some manner. However, it seems odd to complain that we're relying on mobile phones because they make our lives better.