Smartphones are everywhere. About 83% of the world’s population owns at least one smartphone today. It has become a working tool for almost every professional, but it’s also used for studying and leisure. The best models today work as well as a computer, minus the bother of sitting in front of a desk for it. Is it why we never drop our phones? Partially yes, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Those old enough to remember the days before mobile internet know it hasn’t always been like this. More cynical readers may argue it came to solve all the problems we didn’t have before it existed. For about 15 years, no one needed to worry about missing an email; no phone could load it. Social media was still in its infancy and, you’ve guessed it right, didn’t work on any mobile phone either. Enter the smartphone.
IBM created the first smartphone ever back in 1992, but the name didn’t even exist. The first commercially viable models would only hit the shelves ten years later. Connecting a mobile phone to the internet was the beginning of the revolution. The real change came when smartphones became capable of installing and uninstalling apps. Such freedom allowed users to customise their phones according to their tastes and needs.
The first-ever Apple phone, launched in 2008, didn’t only allow users to browse the internet as if on a computer. It also created the App Store, where users could download a large list of different applications. Mobile phones were finally becoming something interesting. Is it enough to hook us, though? Are we really that easy?
Your Brain on Smartphones
Rewarding experiences, in general, trigger dopamine production in our brains. Known as “the hormone of happiness”, dopamine has been there since the dawn of humankind, rewarding things like eating, resting, or mating. Smartphones are excellent at triggering dopamine. When you see a picture that you love and connect with a friend or relative or play your favourite game, the dopamine flows.
We turn to mobile gaming at the moment we want to have a break from the daily routine. We turn to social media when we want to connect with other people and kick loneliness away. We also use smartphones for banking, ordering food, healthcare, etc. Smartphones have become our dopamine fix that can be triggered with just a few clicks.
There’s a problem with dopamine, though: it’s metabolised very quickly, which also leaves us craving for more. So it creates a short cycle: you feel bored, get your phone and feel better, drop your phone and feel bored again, repeat. Before you notice, a habit of frequently checking on your phone is formed.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Why are we addicted to our phones but aren’t addicted to our tablets, for instance? Both are portable and have comparable features. However, tablets are more often used for activities like gaming and reading. Meanwhile, smartphones handle:
- Social media
That’s why smartphones remain more interesting than tablets. It doesn’t matter if tablets have bigger screens and can accomplish similar tasks.
- Social Media
- Videos and Movies
This article doesn’t mean to vilify smartphones; it would be pointless, anyway. Smartphones are an indissociable part of our daily lives and make our lives better on many occasions. However, it’s important to acknowledge its dopamine hook to avoid the risks of compulsive usage. Otherwise, this device can drain a sizable portion of our free time and do more harm than good.