Stanford Survey Contemplates IPhone Addiction

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Remember what life was like before the iPhone? Back when we had to print out maps for trips, do simple calculations in our heads, drive around to find a good restaurant, and watch YouTube videos on a device no smaller than a laptop? Dark times, indeed.

You might even say that some of us have grown dependent on these handheld devices--perhaps even addicted. You wouldn't be alone: a Stanford University survey administered to 200 college students claims just that.

On a scale of one to five, where five is full blown addiction and one is not addicted at all, 10 percent of the respondents ranked themselves as a five, 34 percent a four, and only 6 percent were a one. That's okay, but 32 percent of the people who said they weren't completely addicted said that they worry they may someday walk among the iPhone addicted. Join us.

Among those surveyed, I can sympathize with the 85 percent who use the phone as their watch, and even the 89 percent who use it as an alarm clock. Those jungle chimes, that happy guitar riff? Much more peaceful than the BRRT BRRT BRRT of any alarm clock I've owned. As for the 75 percent who fell asleep with the phone and the 69 percent who were more likely to leave their wallet behind? I've done both, just the other day. And the 15 percent who claimed the iPhone was turning them into media addicts? Well, it's easier than ever to play music, games and movies, so why not?

But then you get to the part where students talk about how the iPhone is like an extension of their bodies, and it starts getting a little looney. A startling 41 percent said that losing their mass-produced iPhone would be tragic, while 30 percent hailed the device as a "doorway into the world." And 25 percent thought the phone was "dangerously alluring," which is perhaps why 7 percent had a roommate or a partner that felt abandoned by the device's constant use.

Then you get to the affection that a curious minority feels for their iPhones: 9 percent have patted the iPhone; 3 percent claim that they don't let anybody touch their iPhone; 3 percent have named their iPhone; 8 percent even thought their iPod was jealous of their iPhone. Truly, the pet rock has some real competition these days.

Professor Tanya Luhrmann doesn't think that it's an unhealthy addiction; the article points out that it's still left to question whether or not addiction to personal electronics even qualifies as a mental disorder. Rather, it's just that these students really like their iPhones. With 70 percent claiming that the iPhone has made them more organized, 54 percent claiming that it made them more productive, and 74 percent claiming that it made them feel cool, it seems as though it might be a net positive effect.

I agree with that. Having a tiny, easy-to-use computer in my pocket keeps me from feeling like I might need to stay indoors, tethered to my computer--and as far as addictions go, that's not such a bad thing.

This story, "Stanford Survey Contemplates IPhone Addiction" was originally published by Macworld.

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