At least that’s the finding of a study at Lancaster University, which has found spending prolonged periods of time on your phone isn’t bad for your mental health. Problem is, worrying – unnecessarily, it turns out - about your phone use, is potentially harmful.
As the budding influencer said to the clueless sponsor, come again? Has your smartphone been miscast as pocket-sized, anxiety-inducing digital doom machine for a selfie-obsessed society? Quite possibly. And that reputation, built both on previous research and hysterical headlines, is the real devil here, playing into an individual’s concerns about their usage.
In the study, the researchers measured the time spent on smartphones by 199 iPhone users and 46 Android users for one week. Participants were also asked about their mental and physical health, as well as being quizzed on how problematic they perceived their smartphone usage to be.
To the surprise and relief of just about everyone aside from a few dozen Tibetan monks and to the chagrin of those poor souls who just shelled out a couple of grand for a week-long digital detox in the Byron Bay hinterland, the amount of time spent on smartphones was not related to poor mental health. Given the average Aussie spends up to three hours a day on their phone, according to a Deloitte report, this is cause for a collective, nationwide double-tap.
"A person's daily smartphone pickups or screen time did not predict anxiety, depression, or stress symptoms,” says study author Heather Shaw, who cautions against unnecessary digital detoxes. Those who did display signs of anxiety and depression, she adds, didn’t use their phone more than those who showed no signs.
"It is important to consider actual device use separately from people's concerns and worries about technology,” says Shaw.
So, how do you quit worrying about it, then? Well, you can turn off any monitoring apps for a start. Those will only contribute to any anxiety you may be harbouring about your usage.
And, if you’re still here, reading this on your phone, there is always the nuclear option: switch the damn thing off. That will assuredly stop any usuage worries from progressing beyond your cerebral cortex but could, in turn, trigger another modern malaise: FOMO.
Don’t worry, yours truly (and the rest of the world wide web) will still be here when you get back. Promise.