Why do we check our smartphones 52 times a day?

Our iPhones, laptops, iPads, Spotify, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, texting, emailing, chatting, podcasts…  Do you ever feel like it’s information overload?  Compulsively checking all your apps for updates?  Constantly being stimulated by a Spotify song, Apple Podcast or Netflix show?

On average, American consumers now check their smartphones an average of 52 TIMES EACH DAY, according to the U.S. edition of the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey from Deloitte.

Adults in the US spend an average of 2-4 hours per day tapping, typing, and swiping on their devices—which adds up to over 2,600 daily touches.  On a weekly basis, this adds up to spending an average of 14 to 28 hours per week on your phone.

To put this in context- assuming a 40-hour work week, 7 hours of sleep each night and a few hours a day for personal care, you’re left with about -> 58 hours a week for everything else.

I know this sounds crazy, but the math from this research leads back to the average adult in the US spending 25-50% of our free time in front of our phone.  Look around at Starbucks, restaurants, people walking around..  at home, work, school.  Are they spending half of their free time on their phones?  Maybe not, but I’d say the concept of people spending a quarter of their free time on their phones sounds scary, but just about right.

Why do we do this?  Why are we so compulsive about checking our phones?  Research shows that a big contributor is the dopamine rush we get from checking, and more specifically- from positive (or negative) social interactions we get from the apps on our phone.  Getting likes on social media, or even texts and emails can be a dopamine trigger.

Dopamine = a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of our favorite foods, after we exercise, and when we have successful social interactions. It rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them.

If we perceive a reward to be delivered at random, and if checking for the reward comes at little cost, we end up checking habitually. If you pay attention, you might find yourself checking your phone whenever you feel bored, purely out of habit. Keep in mind, the programmers at Facebook work very hard behind the screens to keep you doing exactly that.

Are we aware that we waste so much time our phones every day?  And if spending 2-4 hours per day on the devices is information overload, what is the optimal amount of time to spend each day?  I wonder if I could limit my compulsive phone checking to 30 minutes?  Or 1 hour?  What if I checked it just 10 times, or even 5 throughout the day?  Would the world fall apart if I wasn’t checking incessantly?  And what could I do with that extra time???

References
https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/smartphone-addiction-study-check-phones-52-times-daily-1203028454/
http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/dopamine-smartphones-battle-time/
https://freedom.to/blog/what-is-the-right-amount-of-time-to-spend-on-your-phone/

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