Last week I sat next to two women in their twenties who had clearly spent a long time doing their makeup and who spent the entire meal staring into tiny screens. Britain is in the grip of an epidemic
The comedian Russell Kane recently admitted to receiving treatment for social media addiction. Kane likened his phone habit to cocaine abuse, what with the constant disappearing off to the bathroom to get a sneaky online fix and lying to friends and family about going upstairs to get “changed” when in fact he just wanted a few minutes alone to check his Twitter likes. In his own words, he eventually realised he was no longer in charge of “that machine” and has sought help.
I’m not sure how social media therapy works. Maybe you pay someone to snatch your iPhone and replace it with an oldschool Nokia that does nothing beyond making actual telephone calls. Remember them?
Increasingly smartphones are not being used to communicate verbally with anyone directly; instead, they are being used primarily as a distraction from reality. At their best, they’re a sophisticated plaything; at worst, they can turn into a tyrannical barometer of one’s own fragile ego.
Either way, they’re pretty addictive, and you only need travel on public transport to realise that a huge percentage of the British public is literally in the grip of smartphone dependency.
I also think most of us are in denial about our usage. I’ve lied to my own mother about mine – in response to her telling me to “put that bloody thing down”, I’ve snapped, “actually I’m dealing with a really important email”, when in fact I’m playing Candy Crush.