These days, most of us can’t imagine going through a regular day without our smartphones.
We use them for keeping in touch with our loved ones and our social network, checking the weather before heading outside, or as a way to remember our schedule for the day.
We like the idea of increased productivity and we have smartphone applications promising to do just that by making tasks easier for us to accomplish, giving us continuous access to information, and offering a multitude of entertainment services ranging from Youtube videos to beautifully designed games for when we want to take a break.
According to a report by Statista, mobile phone activity for Canada in 2017 could be categorized into messaging (57%), using maps services (51%), watching YouTube videos (51%), playing games (41%), and online banking (38%). With so many mobile services tapping into how highly we regard convenience, it is no wonder that mobile phone use in Canada is expected to grow from 22.8 million in 2016 to 28.6 million by 2021.
This overall mobile phone use increase is also compounded by an increase in mobile gaming.
With releases of titles such as Fortnite, Monument Valley 2, SpellTower and Alto’s Odyssey, the mobile is becoming a game platform worthy of the name. The range of games available has also dramatically increased, incorporating game types you might not even consider at first. One such example is mobile phone Bingo, the popularity of which has been associated with portability and the ability to play practically anywhere.
Other examples also include the world of iGaming, as explained by Casinos.co:
“Mobile casinos are basically revolutionizing the entire online gaming industry, providing instant
access to all your favourite games from wherever you may be, granted you have reliable phone coverage […] you can tune in to all the action of online gaming from wherever you are, even when out and about.”
Indeed, accessibility is one of the top reasons for the rise of gaming on mobile and this rising trend is reflected in an overall increase in mobile phone usage.
Smartphone Reliance or Mobile Phone Addiction?
Could something else be going on behind this veil of convenience? As it turns out, all of the above activities associated with mobile phone use can be characterized as reinforces that condition us to respond to our phones’ beeps and buzzes.
Once we’ve made the association between a tone and a Whatsapp message from a friend, or a click of a button and quick access to information, we begin to respond to the beeps and buttons on our phones reflexively. What this means, is that without consciously thinking about your new love interest, the beep of your phone will automatically make your heart race as you have associated the beeps with previous messages from him or her.
The same conditioning mechanism is used in advertising. For instance, imagine the yellow arches of the McDonald’s logo. Due to the association of this logo with food, many people will automatically salivate when they see it. Similarly, the mere sight of your mobile phone will more often than not, be enough to urge you to check it. Our behaviour is influenced but we aren’t necessarily aware of it.
Moreover, our phones can be switched to silent and tucked away in our pockets, but because they allow us to meet so many of our psychological needs, including for connection, autonomy and competence, we continuously think about them and it takes some effort to stop.
Being productive requires focus and attention, which are limited resources. By choosing to allocate some of our attention to our mobile phones, we invariably leave ourselves a bit short, thereby ironically, decreasing our productivity.