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By Thomas Baekdal - November 2015

Please Stop Listening to Social Scientist Pundits 

This morning I came across yet another study that talked about smartphone addiction. Apparently 50% of the Danish population (where I live) feel addicted to their phones ... which, of course, was then immediately linked to people being lonely and disconnected in an oh so terrible dystopian future of nothingness.

I'm getting really tired of this.

What do these scientists think people are doing with their phones? Looking an an empty screen?

You would be at much greater risk of loneliness if you did not use your phone to stay in contact with other people. Why are we still listening to these studies?

But let's focus on the addiction for a moment. Are you addicted to your phone? I am. I consider my phone, my tablet and my computer to be as vital to have as electricity, running water, a bed, an oven and a fridge.

But I want you to think about it like this:

Imagine that it is the year 1985, before the age of smartphones and the internet. Every morning you would get out of bed and walk out to your mailbox to get your morning paper, which was your only link to the outside world at that time.

Now imagine if your morning paper hadn't arrived. What would you do? How would you feel?

Yep, you would feel that you were missing it. You would probably call the newspaper to complain, and if the paper for some reason still didn't show up the next day either, and the day after that, you would have serious withdrawal symptoms of feeling 'out of the loop', and be actively looking for other options.

I happen to know this because I spent most of my youth as a morning newspaper delivery boy. If people didn't get their paper, it was like the world had just ended.

So, you could have done a study back then asking people if they were addicted to their morning newspaper, and at least 50% would have said, they were. But we wouldn't have considered that to be a problem, would we?

Why are studies today automatically assuming smartphones are bad for us?

Let me give you an example. Consider this:

People use their smartphones more than ever. On their way to work, on trains, tubes, and busses. The social streams are being studied and messages shared.

People are addicted smartphone users, in their own homes are in public places. The morning check of events is often a ritual.

Is this bad?

There is no difference between getting up in the morning and reading the morning newspaper, or getting up and looking at your smartphone. Both are based on the same need, and both are based on the same behavior.

Nor is there any difference between a person reading a newspaper on her way to work or while watching TV, or using a smartphone.

You would never say to a person reading a newspaper that he should put it down and not be so lonely. Reading a newspaper is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. So why is that any different from a smartphone?

In fact, remember what I wrote before about smartphone use? Well, that wasn't actually about smartphones. That was a quote from a 1942 film about newspaper production. Here is the actual quote:

The British people read their papers more than ever. On their way to work, on trains, tubes, and omnibus. The news are being studied and opinions freely formed.

Britons are inveterate newspaper readers, in their own homes are in public libraries. The morning service of events at home or abroad, is to them almost a ritual.

Can we please stop this nonsense? Can we please stop doing these studies that are designed to make people feel bad about doing something that is both perfectly natural and completely socially acceptable?

The scientists doing these studies have decided that smartphones are bad long before they even started asking any questions. That's not science. That's punditry.

Yes, I'm addicted to my smartphone. Just as I used to be addicted to my morning paper. And I consider that to be a good thing. It makes me a more complete person because it helps me to stay connected to the things I care about and communicate with the people I love. It also helps me stay up-to-date about the world around me.

How is that a bad thing?


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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