If you find yourself unable to go more than 15 minutes without reaching into your pocket, pulling out your smartphone and checking your e-mail or micro blog, don’t freak out. You are hardly alone.
A recent survey in the scientific journal Personal and *Ubiquitous Computing shows that smartphone users have developed what the researchers call “checking habit” – *repetitive checks of e-mail and other applications.
The checks typically lasted less than 30 seconds and were often done within 10 minutes of each other.
On average, the study subjects check their phones 34 times a day. And the freaky part is that they don’t even realize they are doing it.
"I hadn’t told my hand to reach out for the phone. It seemed to be doing it all on its own,” wrote Elizabeth Cohen, a medical correspondent for CNN who watched her right hand sneaking away from her side to grab her phone sitting on the table at dinner with friends.
Loren Frank, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), explains that checking smartphones is rewarding in some way.
"Each time you get an e-mail, it’s a small jolt, a positive feedback that you’re an important person,” Frank told CNN.
Once the brain becomes accustomed to this positive feedback, reaching out for the phone becomes an automatic action you don’t even think about consciously, said Frank.
Professor Clifford Nass of Stanford University added that constantly consulting your smartphone is also “an attempt to not have to think hard but feel like you are doing something”.
However, this habit can cause problems. Studies show that whenever you take a break from what you are doing to check your smartphone, it is hard to go back to your original task, according to Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist at UCSF.
That’s not the worst. A survey by South Korean marriage consulting agency Duo earlier this year shows that smartphones are killing intimate relationships, reports The Korea Herald.
About half of the respondents said they had had fights with their boyfriend or girlfriend because of smartphones. And 32.8 percent of them fought about smartphone obsession.
"It makes me bored and annoyed when my boyfriend keeps staring at his smartphone on a date,” 27-year-old office worker Han Hyung-young told the newspaper.
And bad habits die hard.
"I’ve told him (my boyfriend) that I hate it when he reads it at dinner, and he’ll stop for a while, but then he keeps doing it,” complained an Internet user named Noelle on The Non-Consumer Advocate, a blog about frugality and environmentalism.
To get rid of the checking habit, Cohen suggests establishing phone-free times and zones.