Look at a situation where there is waiting involved. How do people pass the time? Some read a book, some stare into space, but most people are on their phone. This seems like the obvious thing to do, because on a phone there are many things to pass the time with such as the internet, social media and games, however is there something else that makes people naturally take their phone out when bored?
There’s an expression that says people twiddle their thumbs then bored. This might very well be true, especially before the smartphone era. I think that people instinctively move their fingers and thumbs around when they’re bored. Some people resort to ‘fidgeting’ or moving around, but my point is that many people find it difficult to stay still for prolonged periods of time. However, I think when these types of people are using a mobile phone then they may appear to stop moving as much.
I think software and the way a lot of apps are designed also make using the phone or app more addictive. Take some of the most popular social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; they arrange their ‘feed’ of information in an infinite line that can be scrolled down by the user. This seems logical as websites do this and it just seems natural to flow down the screen. However, I think that the way most people scroll down these pages make it very easy to become hooked on. In a simple gesture where the thumb slides up very slightly, the next news article, or photo, or video may appear; I think it’s a very similar gesture to ‘twiddling one’s thumb’. This simple gesture may be performed hundreds of times a day by many people all over the world, and over time could be engraved into the person’s mind to be the thing to do when bored. Perhaps some people even feel withdrawal symptoms if they do not use a phone for a day or two.
It is this ease of use and how everything just seems to flow effortlessly on a screen in front of you that I think can get people addicted to using their phones. I find myself sometimes getting my phone out just to swipe across home screens or to pull the notification centre down without really any need to.
Of course the practicality of always having your phone near you, and also the lightness and almost limitless functionality of a phone also makes it very easy to spend a lot of time on. I think that is a reason why most people in developed and even developing countries have smartphones now. Not because everyone really needs one, compared to a traditional phone that can just be used for calls, but because once you use one it can be quite difficult to go back.
I remember in about 2007, before touchscreen smartphones became the norm, there would be the occasional person who would tell me that phones should just be able to call other people and that all other features are just gimmicks and unnecessary. Perhaps they’re right, but I don’t hear them saying that anymore.