JOLINA MARIE LEDL
We check our smartphones 88 times a day on average. In bed, on the train, when we eat, on the toilet: our mobiles are always with us.
On average, Germans now spend an hour a day just scrolling through some content or other. In the process, their eyes scan an average of 173 metres of website and app content: more than the height of the Cologne Cathedral.
The under-40s spend almost six hours on the Internet – a day.
Even before getting up, four out of ten users access social media. For one in every two people, it is the last thing they do before going to sleep.
And even at Christmas, surprisingly few take a break: almost half of young people under 30 admit when asked that they use their smartphone more at Christmas than on other days. Only 20 per cent put their phones away completely on Christmas Eve.
According to the analysis of 41 scientific studies, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concludes that intensive smartphone usage leads, among other things, to postural deformities. This includes ‘mobile-phone neck’. And so-called WhatsAppitis can arise – a tenosynovitis of the thumb.
Even in traffic, many people use their devices at the wheel. Accident researchers confirm that an increasing number of traffic accidents occur due to distraction by electronic devices.
On the other hand, apps and online tools facilitate our day-to-day lives: we use them to buy cinema tickets, unlock rental cars, navigate around the world – all with a few swipes and at almost any location on the planet.
It is clear that we can no longer imagine our lives without smartphones. They have long since become a universal tool for all areas of life.
Whether excessive smartphone usage counts as an addiction is disputed. Fundamentally, it can be said that the devices themselves are not the problem, but rather the content. Fast-paced online content in particular leads to anxiety about missing something – which causes many people to keep checking their screens.
As a consequence of problematic smartphone use, real life can seem more mundane and real social contacts are neglected. There are also sources that suggest that, in extreme cases, symptoms such as withdrawal, loss of control, stress, or even depression and burnout can be observed.
To date, however, only pathological computer game playing has been officially recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO). Those affected by ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’, as defined by the WHO, are people who have only ‘limited control of their playing’ and continue ‘despite the development of negative consequences’.
Whether offline holiday camps, digital-detox seminars, or mobile-free quiet zones in hotels and restaurants: there are an increasing number of options for a conscious approach to the smartphone.
Even the large smartphone providers have already built digital wellness functions into their operating systems: these allow users to monitor their own behaviour by receiving weekly reports on their screen activities. Self-limitation, called ‘app limits’, can also be enforced: for example, just an hour on Facebook a day, 30 minutes on Instagram.
In addition, it can help to specify times, places and situations in which your smartphone is off – for example, when eating together, an hour before bed or in the presence of children. Our screen time handbook offers more ideas.