February 12, 2024
Recent statistics indicate that the typical individual dedicates approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes daily to their smartphone usage. Furthermore, about 20% of smartphone users average more than 4.5 hours on their devices each day.
Interestingly, people tend to use their smartphones more on weekdays than on weekends. On average, they look at their phones 58 times a day. Over half of these checks, around 30 times a day, happen during work hours.
The Philippines leads with the highest average daily smartphone usage at 5 hours and 47 minutes. In contrast, Japan has the lowest average at 1 hour and 29 minutes per day. Meanwhile, in India, the average time spent on smartphones is 4 hours and 5 minutes.
The global mobile industry, valued at over $1 trillion, is experiencing continuous growth year after year. Since 2016, the number of smartphone users has consistently increased and is expected to maintain this upward trend for at least the next five years. In 2016, the world saw around 3.67 billion smartphone subscriptions. This figure has seen an annual increase of between 300 million to 800 million, reaching an estimated 6.57 billion in 2022. Projections suggest that by 2027, there will be around 7.69 billion smartphone subscriptions, nearly matching the current global population, falling short by just 200 million.
The smartphone market in India, boasting over 600 million users, has a diverse age demographic, with 53% of its users being between the ages of 18 and 24.
For a lot of us, checking our phones is the first thing we do when we wake up and the last thing before we go to bed. It's a constant urge, controlled by chemicals in our brains.
One specific chemical, dopamine, is often pointed out for causing this behavior. It's known as the 'feel-good' chemical because it helps control the brain's reward system.
However, it's not only the feeling of pleasure that affects us – our brain's dopamine receptors also react to the expectation of something enjoyable. This anticipation is what drives us to keep checking our phones.
Mobile games and social media applications are crafted to keep that urge going.
Dr. Mahesh Gowda, a leading psychiatrist at Spandana Hospitals in Bangalore, thinks that smartphones are like syringes, providing a constant flow of 'digital dopamine' to billions of people.
Mahesh explains that digital media triggers the same area of our brains that drugs and alcohol do, releasing dopamine. With regular use, our brains adjust by reducing dopamine activity. This can happen through the shrinking of dopamine receptors.
With continuous exposure, our brains can end up in a state where there's not enough dopamine, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability, and strong desires. When this occurs, we start using digital media not to do something specific, but to escape this low dopamine state and feel better.
There's a lot of discussion about whether addictions to behaviors, such as excessive social media use, should be considered as serious as drug addictions. Some people argue they shouldn't be compared because, although using digital media does lead to more dopamine being released, it's much less than what drugs like cocaine or methamphetamines release.
Cocaine and methamphetamines are powerful, addictive stimulant drugs that significantly increase dopamine levels in the brain, leading to intense euphoria or happiness and high risk of addiction.
Whether we're addicted or not, we in India spend an average of four hours a day on our phones. Many of us likely want to reduce that time. So, could we use what we know about how our brain's reward system works to reduce our phone usage? It might be possible.
Dopamine fasting is a concept you might have come across, ironically, on social media platforms like Instagram. It's a type of meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at controlling impulsive behaviors and altering habits. The strategy involves deliberately avoiding overstimulating activities - like social media - for a brief period to manage compulsive urges.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thought patterns to manage and reduce impulsive actions, helping individuals make better choices and control their behaviors more effectively.
Supporters say that taking a short break helps them enjoy their real interests more and improves their relationship with technology. However, critics argue that there's not much proof to back up these statements.
Still, experts studying too much social media use usually think that some form of digital break is beneficial.
"I really support taking breaks from social media," says Dr. A Jagadish, a well-known psychiatrist at Abhaya Hospitals in Bangalore. "A weekend without it can help change habits so that regular social media use might be reduced."
"My observations and experiences show that spending time with friends and family outside of social media, in the real world, results in positive feelings, strengthens bonds, and enhances feelings of togetherness," Jagadish notes. "Therefore, meeting a friend for coffee might be more fulfilling than chatting with them through Messenger."