Yes, that’s right. Your Smartphone could make you feel like you want to end it all. We are not talking about the fact that it randomly dials numbers for people you do not want to talk to. Or that it occasionally shoots off inappropriate cartoons and emojis on text replies to business contacts. We are talking about the device itself and what it can do to you psychologically. According to scientific researchers studying the phenomenon, Smartphones promise satisfaction and meaning in your life, but in reality they only offer more searching.
Researchers studying the complex relationship between meaning-seeking and technology have found that there is a connection between digital devices and media use with feelings of loneliness, depression, unhappiness, suicidal ideation and other poor mental health outcomes.
Taking a deeper dive they found that people (without realizing it) use the devices to search for meaning and purpose in their lives. It is this relationship that develops into feelings of attachment with the device (and can eventually evolve into tech addiction).
The scientists found that when this meaning-seeking is done through heavy social media and Internet use it decreases the odds of smartphone attachment (device and social media use at the highest levels actually erases feelings of attachment for the individual), but that meaning-seeking is strongly related to attachment at lower levels of regular daily media use.
This ongoing feeling of attachment with one’s phone can be seen when people lose or break their devices. It goes far beyond the fear that their personal data is stored on the device. For many people, it can lead to absolute panic and anxiety at the thought of being away from their phone for several days while they wait for repair or replacement. Without realizing it, users may have come to believe that their Smartphone is tied to an invisible umbilical cord which is attached to their self-esteem, their sense of being liked and being right, of being in control, in the know, to be connected to others and whatever is going on, and their ability to feel or sense a reason for being alive.
This has been the advertising hype around Smartphones since the get-go. The promise that users will be connected and on top of what is going on in life, giving them purpose in their lives. The message is that users cannot only find where to get the latest pair of jeans or the route to the hippest bar, but that swiping and tapping can bring them to a place that makes them feel attached to their world and gives them meaning in their lives. The reality that the researchers found however, is that regular, daily Smartphone use…
“…could be anomigenic, causing a breakdown in social values because of the unstructured and limitless options they provide for seeking meaning and purpose and inadvertently exacerbate feelings of despair while simultaneously promising to resolve them. Seeking itself becomes the only meaningful activity, which is the basis of anomie and addiction.” -Lead researcher
Don’t believe the hype
The ads for Smartphones are smooth and slick, calibrated to make consumers think they will be liked and right, admired and on top of everything important. They do not show the internal angst and anxiety or the depression and feelings of being “less than” that so many users experience. The feelings of not being as well-off, not being as good, not being as popular or as smart or as valued as all the other people they glimpse a snippet of in their endless searching.
“What we have uncovered is a social mechanism that draws us into smartphone use, and that might keep us hooked, exacerbating feelings of attachment and anomie, and even disconnection, while they promise the opposite.” -Dr. C.M. Pieper (source)
There was a time not long ago, before the popularity of pocket computers, that obsessed people unable to focus on what was important in life were advised to “Put down the bong”. Now it is the Smartphone.
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are always looking for the meaning of life.” -Albert Camus