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Adults with mobile connectivity capabilities are likely to be online “a lot,” according to a January 2018 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Of the 83% of American adults who reportedly use the internet “at least occasionally” via a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet:

  • 89% report going online daily, and
  • 31% report being online almost constantly.

Of the Americans who go online without the use of a mobile device:

  • 54% report going online daily, and
  • 5% report being online almost constantly.

No-mobile-phone-phobia

This incessant need to have our phones with us has been coined by researchers as “nomophobia,” or “no-mobile-phone-phobia.” Scientific American defines nomophobia as having two particular traits:

“(1) the feelings of anxiety or distress that some people experience when not having their phone (‘I don’t know where my phone is!’), and (2) the degree to which we depend on phones to complete basic tasks and to fulfill important needs such as learning, safety and staying connected to information and to others (‘I’ll just get my phone to help me’).”

Evidently, our mobile phone obsession can result in some psychological consequences — most importantly, we end up relying too much on one device as a resource for all our information and social connection. According to Scientific American, research on transactive memory finds that having access to reliable external sources of information about a particular topic (or topics) at our disposal reduces our motivation and ability to retain knowledge we acquire about those topics.

In other words, what is the point of learning and retaining new information when we have the entire internet at our fingertips? Instead of using human relationships to learn and discuss topics foreign to us, we just “Google it” (and when we forget the answer, we Google it again).

Clearly, if 31% (of the 83% of surveyed American adults who said they use the internet “at least occasionally”) have reported themselves as being “constantly online” via their smartphone or other mobile device, it is likely many of us will end up suffering from this without even realizing it.

Fighting nomophobia one dimmed screen at a time

Google made headlines recently with the release of the first beta tester build of Android P, which boasts several surprising functions designed to disconnect users from their technology — in the pursuit of healthier user digital well-being. According to Android’s Gadget Hacks site, Android P aims to protect its users from disengagement with the world by forcing users to disengage from their phones.

Examples of these new features are:

  • “Dashboard,” which records how much time you spend in any given app, how many notifications you’ve received, and how many times you’ve unlocked your device every day;
  • “App Timers,” which let you set time limits on apps you over-indulge in; and
  • “Shush” and “Wind Down” modes, which limit notifications and fade the phone display, encouraging users to disconnect from stimuli on their devices.

Although initially it seemed contradictory — a company that profits from us using our mobile devices wants us to make a conscious effort to spent less time connected — it is a brilliant marketing tactic.

Android is creating a brand image that allows consumers to believe Android prioritizes being “mindful” and “present.” They are offering the tools you need to disconnect more, but let’s be real — those of us who are conditioned to constantly check our devices will likely continue to do so. In fact, I bet that in the time it’s taken you to read this article, you’ve switched between this and another app or notification at least once.

If you’d like to see where you fall on the nomophobia scale, take this quiz.

Jessica Burns head shotJessica Burns is a blogger and communications professional.

Market Foresight

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