Why cutting down on smartphone usage should top your list of New Year resolutions!

According to a recent study (done by technology consultancy Counterpoint Research)- There are about 650 million mobile phone users in India, and just over 300 million of them have a smartphone.

That means India is already a bigger smartphone market than the U.S. and second only to China.

It also means there are about 1 billion Indians who do not yet have a smartphone. Hence, there is still a huge market opportunity. No wonder the study estimates that there will be an addition of 176 million plus new smart phone users in next five years.

Indians access Internet through their mobiles nearly 80% of the time, which is significantly higher than the global average of 50%. There are two primary reasons that have contributed to the smartphone penetration and Internet usage on these devices.

One, Smartphones have become more affordable and accessible- thanks to many Chinese brands and aggressive competition among them.

Two-Reliance Jio. By offering a GB a day of free 4G, not only did Mukesh Ambani led venture added over 100 million subscribers, It also drove down the overall data prices in the country down by nearly 20%.

While these numbers paint a very optimistic picture of how India is poised to lead a smartphone revolution, there is another set of numbers that reveal why we are on the brink of a Smartphone epidemic. 

A report published in yesterday’s TOI- states that an average user in India spends 200 minutes everyday on mobile Internet. It also points out that users spend almost 70% of their time on social media and entertainment. Out of this – 38% is spent on Facebook and its family of apps- WhatsApp and Instagram.          

 A nationwide survey conducted by CMR on behalf of Qualcomm, to map how Indians use the mobile phone adds more granularity to the above numbers

As per the study findings, a day in India starts and ends with the smartphone. Consider this-

·     69% of Indians reach for their smartphone within 30 minutes of waking up

·     On an average, 40% of the consumers spend 2-6 hours of their time online

·     The maximum usage is during working hours (42%) and at night (38%)

·     Moreover, 7 out of 10 Indians felt completely lost without their smartphone

So, we need to ask ourselves if Smartphone is our best companion or worst addiction?

Assuming that an average human being sleeps for 8 hours and needs around 2 hours for necessary chores, ablutions, rituals, commute, etc- you are dedicating almost a quarter of your productive time to your Smartphone. Now, before you retort that not all time spent on phone is a waste. Let’s be honest. Numbers don’t lie – almost three fourth of this time is spent on amusing ourselves- either relaying our life on the internet or checking status messages, pictures, forwards, videos, jokes and whatnot from your friends, family, colleagues, celebrities and lets not forget the suggested videos and content from the rapidly evolving AI of some of these social networks.

Does doing all this bring any good to us? There is enough research evidence that proves that the ill effects of excessive use of social media go far beyond just reduced productivity and attention spans. Research has attributed excessive usage of social media with high levels of anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.” It sets unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

A recent study even links the increasing trend of teenage depression and suicides to the sudden ascendance of the Smartphones. There are teens who are spending more time online than time with real friends. When we start judging our self worth basis external validation of likes, hearts, shares, etc, we are bound to feel out of depth.

On an average, we check our phones over 100 times a day. The barrage of notifications just doesn’t seem to end.

According to clinical psychologists -each notification, like and communication is a stimulant that acts as a pleasure hit to the brain. It creates an instant sense of excitement and being needed. The irresistible urge to look at a Smartphone screen also can stem from a fear of missing out and compulsive and addictive behaviors.

Even worse, a report from University of Texas actually states that cognitive capacity and overall brain power are significantly reduced when your smartphone is within glancing distance—even if it’s turned off and face down. Just a mere sight of Smartphone can be distracting. We are so terribly programmed.

My biggest realization of my own Smartphone addiction happened when my 7 year old asked me- "What is more important- your phone or me?".

I have seen so many parents – in parks, restaurants, dinner tables, even bedrooms- absorbed in their phones. Physically present but mentally isolated. Aren’t we sending out a message to our children that it is OK to be distracted? To be not present in the moment?

If they inherit these traits from us- traits of attention disorder, instant gratification and external validation, how will they handle responsibilities and relationships that require time, commitment and perseverance to nurture?

All of us need down time. That quiet time when the mind needs break from constant stimulus and needs to rest. That’s when the best ideas occur. Alas, there is no such luxury now. We turn to the screen, the minute we have some free time.

Such is our addiction that we don’t even mind risking our lives for them. Unfortunately I couldn’t find that exact stats on accidents due to using mobile phone while driving, but I am sure just by looking at the number of people I see using their phones while driving that Smartphones must be one of the major contributors to distracted driving and accidents therefore.

So, while curating your list of resolutions for 2018. Think about your attachment with your Smartphone. If you are like me, a little iffy on self-control, probably it’s the right time to do something about your Smartphone addiction.

I have taken a simple step, of deleting apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram from my phone- that consumed a lot of my time and headspace. I only access Facebook once a day on my laptop now and use Youtube on my TV/ laptop for a purposive search. I have muted many of my Whatsapp chat groups and email notification alerts. Also, I have started switching off WiFi at night and leaving the phone outside the bedroom. Just doing this has brought lot of relief. You should try it out. It helps. 

Here’s wishing you a happy 2018.

Author: Gurudev Prasad

February 19, 2017