Psychologists have usually relied on self reporting to calculate things such as the amount of time people spend on their smartphones. It is beginning to look like this isn’t such a reliable way to gather that information. Researchers at Lancaster University have discovered that reported smartphone usage doesn’t match actual smartphone usage.

The Methodology

Smartphone users participating in the study agreed to have an app installed on their phone that tracked all forms of usage for a period of two weeks. At the end of the two week period, the researchers compared the users’ reported usage with actual usage. It turns out that actual phone usage was about double the amount of reported usage. One average, phones were used for about 5 hours per day, and checked over 80 times each day.

Reasons For The Discrepancy

It could be that the way we use phones has changed so significantly that we do not notice how much we rely on them. Smartphones have become almost extensions of ourselves. We use them almost unconsciously. One fact that the study uncovered was that many of the interactions participants had with their smartphones lasted less than 30 seconds. These short bursts of interaction, that would include activities such as checking the time or looking at notifications are likely being done so often that they stop registering. Then, there’s the always the factor of wishful thinking. Many people simply do not want to believe they spend so much time interacting with technology instead of people, or that they are dependent upon that technology. There is also the matter of passive use, such as queuing up a music streaming service and listening to music, but not necessarily engaging with the phone in an active manner. That could also fall under easy to forget usage.

Questions and Discussions

These types of studies often create more questions than they answer. What are the psychological impacts of being blindly connected to a device for most of one’s waking hours? Why are people becoming less aware of their  usage habits? Is this a dangerous epidemic, or is it just proof that a useful technology is becoming more integrated into our lives? What, if anything, should be done to act on these newly found facts?

What do You Think?

Are you a smartphone user? If you were to monitor your phone usage for two weeks, do you think it would be more or less than what you estimate? Do you think that people use smartphones and other devices so often that it becomes harmful?

Food For Thought

It is possible for excessive smartphone use, or excess use of any gadget to cause harm. Anything that causes addictive behavior, results in family conflict, causes isolation, etc. is arguably harmful. On the other hand, it seems as if it has become almost trendy to demonize modern technology. Some argue that technology separates us from one another, but in reality technology is used to connect us with people all over the world. What is it that makes technology a more offensive distraction than any other?