Find yourself reaching for your phone more than food, coffee or hugs? Kind of don’t want to admit but secretly know that you give more love to your phone throughout the day than well, anything else (job, relationships, passion projects)…? Well you’re not alone, however, it turns out that compulsion to check your phone isn’t just a habit, researchers have now found there are key triggers that cause us to constantly get ‘handsy’ with our phones.
The study, conducted by the University of Washington, looked at not only the reasons we compulsively turn to our phones, but why and how we can help curb or kick our constant need to check them. To find out, researchers interviewed 39 educated Seattle based participants aged between 14 and 64, who were either in high school, college or adults with college degrees, asking them a series of questions surrounding their phone habits. Unsurprisingly, the main cause behind our compulsive checking was social media, but in addition, participants also blamed games, YouTube, email and text messaging as key sources linked to their compulsion. As for the triggers, the four main culprits behind our constant need to check in were determined as: unoccupied moments (such as waiting to meet a friend), during tedious and repetitive tasks, socially awkward situations or when waiting for an anticipated message or notification. Sound a little too ‘spot on’? Yep, guilty! They also further determined the main things that stop us looking at our phone (i.e. the potential things we should focus on more) such as: meeting up with a friend, needing to drive somewhere, the realisation they had been on their phone for a half-hour and noticing content they’d already seen. And well, let’s be honest, nothing has the ability to pull you out of the Instagram vortex quicker than seeing a ‘same old’ content influencer #reposting something he/she’s already posted before… #boring!
And it’s not just a millennial thing either. Interestingly, the study found no matter the age, people had the same phone habits. Well, except for the ‘using phones to cover awkward situations’ which was awarded to the high school students, naturally! Bless, we’ve all been there! Outside of the primary motivations, other research points to key factors like boredom and ‘nomophobia’—a combination of the words no, mobile and phobia (or fear of being without your phone…sound familiar?).
So, through understanding the main contributing factors behind our constant compulsion to check in, how do we curb it exactly?
According to the researchers, it’s all about identifying an aspect of behaviour you wish to change, and then look to your phone to see how it could help you achieve it instead. Say again? Well, it turns out rather than barring ourselves altogether, we need to work with our phones instead, applying a more subtle relationship. The scientists found, by connecting to things that relate to the real world and enhance our relationships with friends and family we obtain meaningful experiences that transcended beyond the moment of use. In short, next time you plan to scroll mindlessly, take a second to stop and text a loved one or send a cute quote to a friend instead. It will curb the constant check in and have you craving the real stuff instead!