Editorial: Let’s talk about smartphone addiction

Are you really addicted to your smartphone?

A recent InsightsWest poll saying about 20 per cent of Canadians admitted to being addicted to their smartphone is just the latest symptom of a trend that has been growing, probably since Nokia introduced the first smartphone in 1996.

More and more, some say we no longer connect with people and that too many of us have our eyes glued to our smartphones rather than the world around us.

How many of us have laughed at a YouTube or Facebook video of someone looking at their smartphone and running into a pole?

The same report cited a statistic that weekly smartphone use has increased by 20 per cent since 2014, which is surprisingly low. Smartphones do so much more now than even just four years ago. There are new apps, new ways of doing things, new ways of communicating and better cameras.

It’s natural that we use them more than four years ago. It’s more surprising that usage hasn’t increased even more.

The number of people self-diagnosing as addicted is also not very surprising. Technology addiction is a very real concern, but most of these in the poll probably mean “I use my device so much for work or for keeping in touch that I never like to be too far from it.”

There is no epidemic of overuse, people walking down the street with their face buried in their phone. Teens, especially, get a bad rap for that. It’s true that if you go into a high school during a break, you’re likely to find groups of teens sitting with their friends, texting madly on their phones.

But the key phrase is “with their friends.” Being with friends while chatting online with other friends isn’t an example of rejecting social interaction, it’s an example of a vastly expanded social network.

Smartphones are more about expanding our horizons, not shrinking them. It’s all about how we use them.

(Written on a smartphone in a park, enjoying the shade and a cooling breeze on a hot day.)

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