Are you reading this on your phone? Chances are yes, you're staring at a tiny screen right this minute—that is, if you're like the women in a recent study who reported being on their phones an average of 10 hours a day. The research, published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, looked at 164 college students (okay, okay, they were in college) and concluded that most of us are addicts.
While ladies were busy racking up double-digits of hours per day, the men weren't far behind with eight hours of use daily. People reported spending the bulk of that time—about an hour and a half a day—texting. Email, Facebook, surfing the web, and listening to music rounded out the top five activities.
In addition to reporting their time and what they were doing, the students filled out a survey answering questions like “I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight” and “I find that I am spending more and more time on my cell phone” to measure their emotional attachment to their tech. And eek: About 60 percent of the students qualified as addicted. Tech addiction may not be surprising for Millenials, but the research did hold some revelations. For instance, the activities you might assume would be the most addictive, like surfing the web and gaming, did not seem to be habit-forming. Instead it was the apps that gave people immediate social feedback, like Instagram and Pinterest, that made so hard to put the phones down.
Exactly why they're so addicting comes down to two things: portability and functionality. "I think the phone’s stickiness is both psychological and biological," says James Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at Baylor University and lead author of the study. "Anything that can produce pleasure in the brain, whether it be a behavior or a substance, can become addictive, and the cell phone’s indispensability makes them habit forming." Plus, they just fit so nicely in our pocket or purse!
And it's not just the cool gadgetry that makes phones so compelling. Roberts says it's almost a survival skill, as young adults often feel they must be attached to their phones 24-7 or be left behind socially. In addition, phones are often used as an escape mechanism to get out of the tedium of school or work, to dodge an awkward social situations, he says.
Think you're spending too much time pounding away at the keys? Roberts recommends setting times of the day where cells are off limits—try shutting it off at night, and definitely keep it out of sight while driving.