Sociable people beware? Investigating smartphone versus nonsmartphone dependency symptoms among young Singaporeans
Trisha T. C. Lin (Nanyang Technological University), Yi-Hsuan Chiang (Shih Hsin University), Qiaolei Jiang (Dalian University of Technology), 2015, 43(7), 1209–1216

Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka

There is a 21st century epidemic to which many of us have fallen victim: mobile phone dependency (MPD). When I came into possession of my first smartphone I was enthralled by all I could “achieve” on this small device: manage email; synchronize digital diaries; maintain social contacts; watch videos; use dictionaries, encyclopedias, and maps on-the-go; listen to podcasts; and—when it all became too much—play mindfulness meditation tracks to refocus and tune out all the noise. Was the smartphone really making me more productive or was I blinded by all the bells, whistles, and constant beeps?

Lin, Chiang, and Jiang’s study is timely in that the almost constant presence of smartphones has become the norm for the current generation of young people. Whereas those of us who are older can look back in fondness to a time that was pre-WiFi and pre-FOMO (“fear of missing out”; although that has always existed in some form), students nowadays are almost continuously online thanks to these remarkable mobile devices. 

I found myself wondering when reading this article if this study is a marker for the tipping point in smartphone popularity and if there will be a backlash against them as users begin to resent their MPD. Will we begin to heed the authors’ recommendation “that parents and education authorities should set time limits for use of text messaging and mobile Internet by young smartphone users to prevent their becoming overdependent” (pp. 1213–1214)? Is there, as they state, a need for “campaigns about healthy smartphone usage [that will be] crucial to creating awareness among young users” (p. 1214)?

Hopefully, we can adapt positively and productively to having smartphones in our lives. We will learn to appreciate valuable tools, such as instant messaging, GPS, and emergency medical alerts, but at the same time balance this with precious “off-the-grid” time.

Emily Duncan | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal