A research conducted by the University of Würzburg in Germany and Nottingham-Trent University in England, on behalf international software security group Kaspersky Lab, found that people left on their own in a waiting room lasted an average of only 44 seconds before reaching for their smartphones. Women managed to hold-out for 57 seconds while men managed to stay away for only 31 seconds.
To delve deeper into our own perceptions about companionship with digital devices, after ten minutes the participants were asked how long they thought it had been before they reached for their phone. Most people said between two and three minutes, highlighting a significant disconnect between perception and actual behavior.
The immediacy of information and interactions delivered through our smart devices make them much more of a digital companion and connection to the outside world than a piece of technology.
Additional research conducted by the universities suggests that this compulsion to check our phones could be as a result of fear of missing out (FOMO) on something when not online. In an accompanying survey, participants that used their phones more intensely admitted to a higher level of FOMO.
The more participants use their phone the more they are afraid they are missing out when they are not accessing it. It is not clear which attribute fuels which – do people use their phone more because they are afraid of missing something, or is it because they use it so much that they worry they are missing out.
The study also found that the more we use our phones, the more stressed we become. But surprisingly, when participants were asked about their overall happiness, there was no difference between light and heavy users. So the stress caused by smartphone usage does not seem to have a major influence on our well-being in general.
During the 10-minute waiting session, participants used their smartphone on average for almost half the time (five minutes). As previous research by Kaspersky Lab demonstrated, we rely heavily on mobile devices these days as an extension of our brains, using them as tools so we do not have to remember facts anymore. The majority of respondents, for example, could not remember their current partner’s phone number but could still recall their home number from when they were ten.