Am I Addicted to my Mobile Phone?

device mobile addiction

Confessions of a Mobile Device Addict

What is a Mobile Device Addict and am I one of them? Samuel Fry is on a mission to find out if he, and many other people, is an addict.

When I was younger, I used to play certain computer games for hours on end. Championship Manager, The Sims and Age of Empires were probably my favourite and, do you know what, I knew that if I started playing them that I would not be able to stop for at least two or three hours. Often it was longer.

I did not play them every day. Probably not even every week. But if I started a game of Championship Manager late on a Saturday afternoon, I could well be playing until the early hours.

There is something very strange about these games. They are fun when you start playing. You’re managing a new team in League 1 and have a reasonable budget at your disposal. The game starts in the summer, which means that you are able to buy new players, sell the “dead wood” and construct the team that play the football that you like to see. For me, that meant a lot of players in attack. Yet, a few hours later, as the season progresses, you are simply going through a routine of playing matches, responding to emails and attending very repetitive press conferences. It’s all fairly mundane.

In truth, the game is not as exciting at this stage. If you knew that you would be starting the game at this point, you probably would not have turned it on. But now that you have, it’s hard to stop. A few hours and a lot of press conferences can pass and you will barely notice.

I was not having “fun” at that stage; yet, I was not completely bored either. So I kept playing. I always wondered how they did that. How did they keep me playing?

Now, I should say fairly early on, I play computer games but I am not a “gamer” as such. I play games like these every few months, not every day. Sure, I play FIFA with friends but I’m not an obsessive.

The reason I write about this is that I am conscious that I’m beginning to become obsessive about something else: my mobile devices.

Apps to Stats – Mobile Phone Addiction

A little while ago I read a statistic. Apparently, someone is called a “Mobile Addict” when they launch apps more than 60 times per day. On average, each consumer launches apps 10 times per day. So, an “addict” is someone who launches them 6 times more per day than the average.

The stats do vary, as a year earlier in 2013 Mary Meeker was claiming that “The average mobile consumer checks their device 150 times a day”. Yet, to some extent I don’t think that the numbers matter too much. What I am worried about is how much that I, and others, are checking their phones and becoming addicted to them.

I began reading about the subject of mobile phone addiction. A quick search online will show the full range of stories about people’s addiction to their phones. Mothers that are addicted to Candy Crush, teenagers who text hundreds of times a day, even people who have fallen in love with the talking clock. A few months ago BuzzFeed even published a quiz which asked “Are You Actually Addicted To Your Cell Phone?” I scored 52 out of 74 – apparently I am “moderately addicted”. As I read through some of these articles, there were a number of names that kept popping up. One of which, was James A, Roberts.

Expert in Mobile Phone Addiction

Roberts, or Jim to him friends, lives in Texas and works as a Professor of Marketing at Baylor University. You will find his name in a variety of scare stories across the British tabloids, such as ‘Students addicted to mobile phones’ and ‘How checking our phones 60 times a day is driving away friends’. This is not his aim of course – to scare. Roberts’ research often provides the basis for these stories, feeding the media with stats which helps him plug of his books.

A typical Roberts influenced story would hysterically claim that young people are losing the ability to form social relationships, as they check their mobile up to 100 times a day. Or, scientists say that constant texting is as addictive as compulsive shopping. This will then be followed by Roberts giving his input, like a gentle school teacher who tells you that your child has a good soul after he has just burned down the bike shed. He’ll provide a calm voice among the hysteria. Young people simply need to recognise when their behaviour is becoming a problem and everything should be fine.

I met Roberts over Skype and found him to be just that person – a gentle, encouraging man who is very open with his time. His articles might be a tabloid writer’s dream, but the man himself is much more understated and really helpful.

Talking across continents is never easy, so we had a lot of the natural Skype issues that come with speaking across time zones. I explained to him that I am one of those people who is told that I use my device too much. “I often have my iPad in one hand, my iPhone in another and probably my laptop on my lap”. I continued, “It can be a shame when I sit in a pub with friends who look at their phones more than they look at me, or in living rooms full of people staring into their laptops. Yet, there are obviously great things about it too – being able to connect with people in a different way.”

I was genuinely worried about this. I know that I use my phone too much. Yet, as we know – I am only “moderately addicted”. So, what if you were completely addicted?

Finally, I said that, given all this, “I am now interested in gathering people’s stories”. I wanted to find out whether their “overuse of mobile phones had helped them, or whether they had made them more distant from people”.

Roberts agreed. He said that it would be good to find out the balance. “If it were all bad, we would quit doing it. It can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. That’s what’s difficult: finding that happy medium where you are using it without it using you.”

That resonated with me. Was I benefiting from using my phone? Or, was needing to constantly check my phone beginning to use me?

Device Addict – A Crowdsourced Book

So, that is what I want to do. I want to find out whether our increased used of mobile devices (phones, tablets and others) is a good thing. I want to collect the good, bad and downright strange stories that come with being addicted to our devices. But I can’t do it on my own.

Have you ever been saved by your mobile? Has it ever got you into trouble? Maybe you have been brought closer to people by technology. Or, you may have a story about how technology drove you away from them. I am looking for real stories that demonstrate our modern relationships with mobile devices. The beautiful, the upsetting, the imaginative, the disastrous and the awful.

If that’s you – let me know about it.



Samuel Fry is now looking to Crowd-source stories for a book about our Relationship with Devices. For more information visit the Device Addict website or follow the hashtag #DeviceAddictBook.

Industry Experts article, written by:

Samuel Fry

Samuel Fry, Director, Create Hub

Mobile Device Addiction

Samuel is currently the Director of Create Hub. Samuel has a history of working with creative, innovative and entrepreneurial companies such as the creative-business incubator Cockpit Arts, in the Creative Economy team at Nesta, with entrepreneur network Virgin Media Pioneers and as the Enterprise Consultant at University of Bristol.

Image Credits. Top: “Mobile Circles”, by Samuel Fry; Lower “Samuel Fry Mobile Addict”

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