A new study finds we are more dependent than ever on our mobile phones, but ambivalent about being so attached to them.
Two-thirds (67%) of cell owners say they check their phones for messages, alerts or calls even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Some 18% of mobile users say they do this “frequently.”
Furthermore, 44% have slept with their phones next to their bed to ensure they didn’t miss any calls or text messages, and 29% describe their phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.” The mobile addiction stems in part from the reliance on devices as personal organizers.
In that vein, people say their phone has made it easier to stay in touch with friends and family (65%), plan and schedule their daily routine (28%), and be productive while sitting in traffic or waiting in line (26%). At the same time, some complain of the constant distractions and disruption imposed by the mobile age.
So 9% say their phone makes it much harder to disconnect from work life, as well as give their undivided attention to others (7%), and focus on a single task without being distracted (7%). “Cell owners have become extremely attached and attuned to their phones, but many express ambivalence about that attachment,” said Aaron Smith, lead author of the Pew study titled “The Best (and Worst) of Mobile Connectivity.”
Although most would say the benefits outweigh the costs, “they freely complain about the downsides of hyper-connectedness, with the heaviest mobile users being some of the most persistent grumblers,” he added. When asked about what they least liked about having a cell phone, almost a quarter (24%) say it’s being constantly available.
“The challenge is for people to manage their time and their contacts in a way that gives them oases of peace and quiet, without being so disconnected that they miss out on important social moments,” said Smith. For 15% of U.S. adults, the solution is simply not to own a mobile phone.
But for the vast majority, they are already hooked, and trying to upgrade. Pew estimates that 53% of mobile owners now own a smartphone, likely making them even more tied to their devices than before. The nonprofit group’s report was based on a nationally representative telephone survey of 2,254 adults (including 1,954 cell phone owners) conducted between March 15 and April 3, 2012.