The smart­phone twitch

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ed­i­to­rial ran in the St. John’s Tele­gram: The smart­phone twitch Try it at a party some time. Take your smart­phone out of your pocket, as if you’ve just felt the gen­tle vi­bra­tion of an ar­riv­ing text. But don’t even wake it up — if you turn the phone on, you might get dis­tracted and miss the whole point of the ex­er­cise.

No, look at your blank phone for a mo­ment, and then slide it back into your pocket or purse. Then watch.

No mat­ter how en­gag­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, no mat­ter how close and en­joy­able your friends are, you’ll see the other phones sneak out. And un­til they do, it’s sur­pris­ing how un­com­fort­able your friends will be­come.

It’s not uni­ver­sal, of course: there are those among us who have yet to be in­doc­tri­nated into the broth­er­hood and sis­ter­hood of the en­dor­phin phone rush. Heck, there are still flip-phones around oc­ca­sion­ally, and in­di­vid­u­als with the strength to re­sist the urge. But it’s fewer and fewer ev­ery day. We’ve built an im­pres­sive tech­nol­ogy — one that can get our at­ten­tion dur­ing al­most any wak­ing hour, even if we nei­ther en­joy what we’re see­ing nor take any real plea­sure in be­ing con­stantly up-to-date.

We’re ad­dicted to that lit­tle rush, as much as we might de­spise be­ing tied to the in­ter­net world. Close to one in eight Amer­i­cans al­ready has a demon­stra­ble in­ter­net ad­dic­tion, and the num­bers are grow­ing.

Go on your phone and look up in­ter­net or elec­tronic ad­dic­tion, and you will see reams of in­for­ma­tion — gotcha! You’re look­ing at your phone again, right? Feel­ing the itch?

Be­havioural sci­en­tists ar­gue that we’re re­pro­gram­ming our brains, that we’re train­ing our­selves to want a jolt of news or just plain con­tact ev­ery few sec­onds — and the rewiring is dif­fi­cult to change, es­pe­cially when smart­phones are in­te­gral to fam­ily or­ga­ni­za­tion and con­tact. You can’t sim­ply choose to opt out.

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