Nothing is more annoying than to be seated with a friend or spouse who ignores your presence and keeps scrolling through Smartphone updating facebook timeline, replying whatsapp messages or engrossed in some internet sites. It is a kind of an addiction that is catching up with many people. Many may think that this addiction is only among teenagers and young adults, but in reality it is affecting people in other age brackets. Respected people in the society such as parents, priests, teachers and office goers are suffering from this modern plague.
In the ordinary events of the day dealing with people suffering from Smartphone addiction is not only annoying, it is disgusting and frustrating. It is not uncommon to see young shop attendants too absorbed with their mobile handsets at the expense of business. In the middle of a conversation a receptionist grabs the phone from her bag to check the incoming message. It is an insult to the person who is waiting for a service, it is impolite and disrespect to say the least. In such situations I have walked out of shops and offices.
Addiction to digital communication is Nomophobia. It is fear of being without your Smartphone or not having connected to internet. This has to be treated as an addiction similar to drugs abuse and alcoholism. Addictions are obsessive behaviour that is acquired through repeated action or behaviour. Social scientist Moby says, “What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behaviour is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay.”
On May 3, 2016 CNN website posted, “Nearly 80% of teens in the new survey said they checked their phones hourly, and 72% said they felt the need to immediately respond to texts and social networking messages. Thirty-six percent of parents said they argued with their child daily about device use, and 77% of parents feel their children get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they are together at least a few times per week.”
Talking about parents’ own addiction to the Smartphone, the same internet site said, “Sixty-nine percent of parents check their devices at least hourly compared to the 78% of teens who say they do that, and nearly half, 48%, of parents feel they need to immediately respond to texts and social networking messages.” As compared to the teenagers, 28% of parents share the same addictive behaviour with their children.
It is largely a survey conducted in the USA, but the situation in Uganda is not far from this. In February 2015 Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) reported that at least 53% of Ugandans use mobile phones and a recent survey reveals that at least 6 million Ugandans use Smartphones. Thanks to mobile internet bundles many of them are hooked to internet sites cheaply anywhere and everywhere.
The consequences of Smartphone/internet addiction are almost the same as drug addiction. The symptoms are very evident at every moment of the day. The common symptoms are: increased level of stress, the addicted person is stressed in mind, fingers, and body; insomnia, the user wastes away the precious moment of sleep engaged in facebook chat that are of no importance; loss of sleep may lead to more stress, less productivity, lower energy levels, difficulty in concentrating, and lower brain activity.
Another important negative consequence is anxiety. The addicted person has a constant urge of checking the phone and when finding no message causing stress or even anger. It also has adverse effect on relationship. Relationships have been broken due to mis-texting or non-texting. The Smartphone addicts find it hard to stay away from their gadgets. They feel strong withdrawal symptoms and suffer depression when they cannot have their phones.
Constant use of phones with various applications has made users to depend on the gadget. People have lost their training in memory, decreased in their creative ability, and have missed out in their learning experience. We have allowed the gadget to work instead of we working. In the unpleasant situations of over use of phones when parents, loved ones, supervisors and workmates challenge the phone-user they even become aggressive and non-responsive. The users also do not like their gadgets to be handled by others, thus becoming possessive and suspicious.
In all these moments of addiction and negative consequences, the addicted person involves in the addictive habit well knowing that it he or she is wrong and overlooks on the ability to stop the habit. They tend to ignore the health risks, loss of productivity and a stunt growth in creativity and personal maturity. It is needless to say on the negative impact on relationship and family life.
As this addiction is catching up in developed and emerging societies many stakeholders have spoken against the improper use of this technology that is not bad in itself. Pope Francis has a few sensible admonition: “A family that almost never eats together, or that never speaks at the table but looks at the television or the Smartphone, is hardly a family… When children at the table are attached to the computer or the phone and don’t listen to each other, this is not a family, this is a prison!”
His ideas on social media and social networking calls for thought. “Social networking can make us feel that we are well-connected, when in reality we are becoming detached from those closest to us and living as autonomous individuals rather than as members of a family.”