More Americans own a smartphone now than a traditional cellphone. According to a survey from Pew Internet & American Life project, 42% of cellphone users utilize their phones for entertainment when they are bored. Christopher Lynn, an anthropology professor at the University of Alabama told CNN smartphones can “superstimulate” a desire humans have to play when things get dull. Users can play games, listen to music, watch videos and engage in social media and texting all at the tap of their fingers.  “When you’re habituated to constant stimulation, when you lack it, you sort of don’t know what to do with yourself.  When we aren’t used to having down time, it results in anxiety. ‘Oh my god, I should be doing something.’  And we reach for the smartphone.  It’s our omnipresent relief from that.”

While all the smartphone users interviewed for the CNN article acknowledged smartphones were an increasingly important part of their lives, some saw the negatives to depending on them, while others felt using them only enhanced their lives.  A 39 year old woman said, “I do everything with my phone.  Even when I’m driving, I might have Facebook open. At a red light the first thing I do is just look at my phone.  I get a little anxious if I see a notification and don’t read it.”   Another user said “Before smartphones came out, you had that down time where you sit on the bus and your mind just kind of wanders and you think of these amazing things.  You get out that old thing called pen and paper and you jot it down.

Researchers at Oxford, England’s Social Issues Research Centre believe the need to fill all moments of free time by looking at a smartphone actually reduces the potentially rewarding ways humans have dealt with life’s monotony in the past.  They believe the ability to become bored can actually allow for personal introspection that diminishes when a person resorts to the phone for stimulation.  Many smartphone users however believe the technology at their fingertips actually enhances their quality of life, without negative effects.  Said a 25 year old man, “I feel like it gives me a break from what’s at hand.  I even find it helps to keep me going through the day as I can get in touch with things in the outside world.  Most of the time, I would have done nothing during those times anyhow.”  It’s something to think about – smartphones acting as a defense against boredom, and the idea that boredom can result in anxiety for some people.  Maybe we should look at the positive and possibly negative aspects of our cellphone usage…..   CNN     9/27/12


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