I go to the AT&T store to get a new phone. I say, “Hi, I want to downgrade my smartphone. I don’t want email or Internet anymore.”
The clerk looks at me a bit surprised but says, “Downgrade, ok, no problem.”
She walks me to a wall of phones, away from the iPhone and iPad section. This section is still shiny like the Apple section, but it feels different. It feels like a downgrade. Things are about to change.
I choose a phone that does the things I want it to do—take pictures, play music, send text messages. Oh, and make phone calls. That would be useful in a phone. The clerk asks for the iPhone. “Really, you have to take it?”
She says, “I have to import your contacts to the new phone.” I hand it over.
After a few minutes, she hands it back. But it’s not the same phone. My dear old phone has lost its connection to the world. It no longer has a signal. I feel the panic inside. Anxious thoughts flood my mind. My heart pounds and sweat forms on my palms. I’m having a physical reaction to this loss. Yes, loss, this is what it feels like. I feel like I’m losing something important.
I look at my new phone. It looks stupid and already I hate it. I pick it up. What am I supposed to do with this? Call people? I don’t want to call people, I want to check my email. Dumb phone.
My reaction to getting rid of my smartphone isn’t unique. It’s right in line with addictive behavior. And I’m not the only one addicted to my smartphone.
According to Forbes.com, a Rutgers University study found that “a third of BlackBerry users show signs of addiction similar to alcoholics.” The study also suggested that smartphones can be so addictive that, “owners may need to be weaned off them with treatment similar to that given to drug users.”
In a 2010 study by Crowd Science, 20% of respondents admitted to being addicted to their smartphones. In another 2010 study by Stanford University, 94% of iPhone users admitted to being addicted to their iPhones. Only 6% said they were not addicted at all.
And when speaking of addiction, it’s instructive to look at behavior. A 2011 global report of mobility trends described smartphone use during “downtime.” Downtime is described as, “personal time or me-time, when you are waiting for something or otherwise not occupied.” The study found that 28% of respondents check their smartphones 5 or more times in one hour, with 7% “obsessively” checking 10 or more times in one hour. The largest age group for the “obsessively checking” category is 22-34 years old, which is my age group. I’m among good company.
I bring home my new phone and flop it on the table. On the way home from the store, I would have normally checked my email at the stop light. Now I have no idea if anyone emailed me between the time I left my office and now. How will I survive? This isn’t going to be easy. I want my iPhone back.