OPINION: Cellphone ‘addiction’ is just a need to connect

by | Mar 31, 2017 | Life, Opinion

By Neha Lobana

In a recent study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, data revealed that one in five young adults show “problematic” use of electronic devices.

Researchers discovered that 19 per cent of young adults aged 18 to 29 experience moderate to severe problematic use of electronic devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets and video game consoles.

The survey also disclosed that adults in Ontario tend to spend more than 11 hours per week on email and social media. That’s in addition to almost four hours per week scrolling through devices at work or school, or playing screen-based games.

Roughly seven per cent of adults in Ontario have an addiction to electronic media, according to CAMH, totaling more than 700,000 people. While 37 per cent of participants report that they have texted while driving at least once throughout the year, 11 per cent admitted to texting and driving more than 30 times or more over the year.

“Greater screen time doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a problem. It’s about how that use and those many hours affect other aspects of your life and to what extent you’re able to cope with that,” Hayley Hamilton, a research scientist and co-principal investigator with CAMH Monitor told the CBC.

While allowing that individuals may be more consumed with their electronic devices, I find that the word “addiction” is far too bold to describe the correlation between an individual their electronic device.

CAMH states that those they surveyed were asked six questions including whether they felt growing tension or anxiety that can only be relieved by using an electronic device; have had family members express concern about their screen time; if they tried cutting back or missing school, work or other important events within the past 12 months.

However what CAMH did not reveal is what exactly is causing this “problematic” use. For instance, among the individuals who were surveyed, were they constantly looking back at their electronic devices because of social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Were they on dating apps where they got hooked on swiping left and right to find their ideal match? What were the factors that came into play for these individuals who face problematic use with electronic devices?

What needs to be cited is that some individuals who spend a significant amount of time on electronic devices, do so to escape their own reality. Perhaps the individual has a mental health issue or is facing tough situations at home. Many people default to using their electronic device as a distraction from reality in order to get through difficult times.

It’s true that such uses can become obsessive and even destructive. Taking the negative associations of meme culture, for example, many who create them are undermining their own mental health through these photos created and shared on social media platforms.

But if we’re going to speak about individuals being addicted to their electronic devices, we must take into consideration that technology has changed significantly these past few years, which has also lead to a significant change in human interaction.

In the years before cell phones were ubiquitous, individuals would gather once a week to see their friends and keep up with their closest relations. That was the farthest interactions typically went back in those days.

However, thanks to cell phones we not only have to follow through with weekly physical interactions but we’re responsible for maintaining relations routinely over electronic devices.

Ignoring calls or messages can create strains amongst individuals. We no longer live in simpler times where interaction occurred on a weekly basis; rather we’re scrambling each day to keep up with messages, emails and phone calls to maintain relationships.

So, while individuals may be using their electronic devices more often, it’s often merely to keep up with the transformation of human interaction.