I’m attached to my iPhone. As in, sometimes I feel as though it will be stuck to my palm — sealed with hot glue and some cute Lisa Frank stickers — forever. And, the advent of products like the Apple Watch (and the wearable-tech ring that tracks your text messages from the brunch table) suggests that most people share a similar intimacy with their devices.
And, new research suggests that women are particularly attached to their devices. Jim Roberts, PhD, a marketing professor at Baylor University, says that female college students are more likely to spend time with their phones than male students are. In a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Dr. Roberts found that the women polled spent a whopping 600 minutes (10 hours) on their phones per day, while men spent only 448 minutes (7.6 hours) on their devices. What were they doing all day staring at those tiny screens? Female users spent most of their time on social networking sites, especially Pinterest and Instagram.
On top of that, a few recent surveys suggest that nomophobia — a catchy abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia” — especially plagues female phone owners. Last year, Time Inc. confirmed the “unbreakable bond” between mobile devices and their female users, 60% of whom called their phones the “most important device” in their lives; only 43% of men agreed. And, in March, ratings company Nielsen released data on Americans’ smartphone app use, determining that women spend an average of 30 hours per month on mobile apps — an hour more than their male peers.
“Access to a computer or device is like owning the keys to a 24/7 candy store,” explains cyber-psychology specialist Michael Fenichel, PhD. Although it doesn’t qualify as an addiction in the true medical sense, our obsession with social media gives us particularly salient rewards with very little effort. Still, phone use isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ve come to rely on phones because they make our communication so much more efficient — so quitting cold-turkey could backfire for many of us. Which is where talk about plugged-in moderation or disconnecting comes in. For both health and social reasons, behavior experts are firm believers in scaling back our phone use.