It was supposed to be a nice evening out with friends she hadn’t seen in ages. Everything had been arranged on Facebook and the spot picked was a known café. After the hugs and bisous, they all sat down and the first thing one of them asked the waiter was,” What’s the WIFI password here?” The second she was given the password, nothing else seemed to matter. The very reason she was in that café was forgotten and as the rest continued to chat, she just focused primarily on phone. As the evening progressed, it dawned on her friends that she might be addicted to her phone; if the fact that they suspected it was glued to her hand was any indication.
Phone addiction can be described as the need to use one’s cell phone more and more in order to achieve the same desired effect.
Mobile phone manufacturers are constantly investing in improving and expanding the functionalities and applications of their sleek gadgets, and this in turn makes them increasingly indispensable to a growing number of users, especially the younger and more impressionable crowd.
The final assault came with the mass proliferation of iPhones and all other manner of Smartphones catering for virtually all market segments. Armed with these handy gadgets, one can access virtually the entire cyber world for data, news, video and audio streaming services, downloads, social media and all manner of chat forums and groups.
The net result of all this – mass mobile phone addiction.
It’s easy to spot a phone addict. I know one such person who would never put their phone away to charge its battery once it runs low. He would simply plug it in and sit right there, to continue with the business of chatting and ‘tweeting’ and ‘facebooking’ with friends and waiting for that elusive call or text message
Naturally, this man loved to charge his iPhone from the most ideal of locations –his laptop. Recently, he just invested in a power bank to further smoothen things out for him - and it worked. As I type this, my friend is with his sleek gadget and till death shall they part.
Other people who are addicted to their phones will jump at the first ring, beep or vibration from the next phone whose ringtone is remotely similar to their own. It goes on and on.
According to Dr. Rachna Pande, Head of Department (Internal Medicine) at Ruhengeri Hospital in Musanze District, phone addiction is no different from other forms of substance dependence “only that the material being depended upon is different.”
“Mobile phone addiction is more appropriately termed as mobile phone dependence. Like any other substance abuse it is characterised by excess use of the mobile phone, spending a lot of time and money on mobile phones, using mobile phones inappropriately while driving or when with company, getting visibly upset if mobile phone does not function for some reason, and losing interest in personal human interactions,” she further explains.
Singer Mani Martin describes phone addiction as “a huge disease our generation is facing these days.”
“You find people are on the phone in meetings, church, class, office, everywhere! It’s becoming a big challenge to hold normal face-to-face communication in today’s society,” the artiste says.
Although he does not remember a time he was addicted to his phone, the singer reveals that he has been a secondary victim to the vice.
“I have been irritated by a friend who was addicted to her phone. She would spend all her time on her phone, to the point I would get angry every minute I found myself talking to her and she was busy with her phone. Once, she almost got an accident on the streets because of her phone addiction. That is when she recognised the problem she had,” he says.
According to Dr. Pande, the habit further poses health hazards to its victims
“Phones form an important source of spread of infections as they are passed from hand to hand and never cleaned. They are also a source of anxiety and stress. Persons addicted to mobile phones may lose interest in direct personal communication and may even have a break up in relations. Though controversial, many studies link excess use of mobile phones to brain cancer,” she explains, adding that teenagers, young adults and women were more prone to phone addiction.
Joshua Tahinduka, the president of 1Toastmasters Rwanda, a public speaking forum, believes that this digital shift has affected “almost everyone.”
“There is an urgent need to communicate instantaneously, get information across as soon as possible and this causes an addiction to the most convenient gadget called the PHONE. I would not brand myself addicted yet, but there is an insecurity that comes when my phone is dead and I know possibly someone will want to inform me about something.
“So has it affected me? I have not registered any serious effects but at times I have seen my attention during a physical conversation fade slowly which is devaluing to my friends,” he says.
Tahinduka blames this surge in dependence on mobile gadgets on the ‘information age.’
“The demand to have the most recent information either from a friend or from another environment is responsible. Besides, society has built extreme hunger for information and the small gadget does so much in keeping us on it. The information around us that rewards the most informed people among us drives us.”
Maija Rivenberg, an administrator at the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, admits to having fallen victim to her own phone before.
“One day I forgot my phone at home and I decided that I was going to live the day without it. It was an interesting experiment, especially since using my phone is pretty essential to my work. I actually think that not having my phone distanced me from society, at least the society that I interact with, because people thought I was crazy to have left my phone and not gone back home to pick it. It was unfathomable to them. But it was actually really refreshing to not have so many distractions and I got more work done focusing on the tasks I had at hand instead of being constantly interrupted by chats and phone calls. It was a cool experience and I think people should try it out.
“For me it’s mostly social media. I like reading the news via Twitter and chatting. Emails also take up screen time a lot especially when I’m out of office,” she says.
She describes phone addiction as “a pressing need to constantly check your phone, even if just to see if you have any notifications or check the time a few minutes after checking it before. Its feeling more interested in the virtual life than participating in real life. I think as a society we are phone addicts so yes, I have found times when I impulsively checked my phone or started scrolling through Instagram and lost track of time. I think most young people would have to admit being admitted at some point.”
Are phones crippling social interaction?
It’s common these days to find people hanging out but everyone is on his/her phone. People have very many apps and games on their phones that occupy them full time, thus having less time to actually socialise.
The era of smart phones has made people addicted to their phones and some would rather ‘hang’ with the phone than actual people.
Patricia Uwase, event planner
No matter how much we tell ourselves that we’re in control, it’s obvious that phones control almost all our free time. Even when at work, people find themselves spending a good amount of time on the phone.
They might not even be keen on actual contact with people the same way they do with their phones. The rise of the Smartphone was supposed to be a good thing but it has also created a technology addicted environment.
Tito Gakire, Student
When we hear that technology is taking over social interaction, many people imagine only sophisticated equipment, and other epic innovations, yet it’s actually just our mobile phones. When you look at young people, they are friendlier to their phones than their friends. Take a good look around and you will see that phone addiction is escalating. We shouldn’t ignore it as it’s also a serious addiction.
Fred Furaha, entrepreneur
It’s true that mobile phones consume a lot of people’s time but to be fair, the era of the Smartphone has made communication much easier.
People connect with friends and family living abroad in much simpler ways like Facebook and Skye.
They get to share a lot with them.
Yes, that might cripple actual human interaction but it’s not all bad.
I encourage people not to replace their loved ones with their phones, especially those who are within reach.
Mary Ingabire, student