Society is addicted to social interaction, not their phones

GRANADA, Spain — Are people addicted to their phones — or everything we use them for today? Contrary to popular belief, researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) have found that it’s not the phones themselves which fuel society’s addiction to technology, but rather the social interactions they enable.

This theory, initially proposed in 2018 by Professor Samuel P.L. Veissière from McGill University, was recently put to the test by the UGR team. They conducted an experiment with 86 participants, dividing them into two groups. Jorge López Puga, a researcher at UGR and the study’s lead author, explains that one group, known as the social expectation group, had to send a WhatsApp message to their most active contacts about participating in an “exciting task in a virtual reality universe.”

In contrast, the control group didn’t send any messages. Both groups then had to turn off their notifications and place their phones face down while they engaged in a virtual reality activity. After this, they were left idle without access to their phones, and later allowed to use WhatsApp again.

(Photo by Anton from Pexels)

During the experiment, the researchers monitored the participants’ electrodermal activity, which has a connection to the autonomic nervous system and serves as a measure of anxiety.

“We observed that the social expectation group was more tense throughout the experiment. We also found that this group became more anxious when they were asked to stop using their mobile phones. Moreover, when they were allowed to use their phones again, this group experienced a much higher level of emotional arousal,” says López Puga in a university release.

These results suggest that mobile phones themselves are not inherently problematic. Rather, it’s the ways and reasons for using these devices that might contribute to certain psychological issues. This study challenges the common narrative of “phone addiction” and opens the door to a more nuanced understanding of our digital habits.

Recently, another team in Denmark essentially backed up these findings, suggesting that the main drivers of phone addiction are the “endless possibilities” these devices bring people on a daily basis.

“When we get this inner urge to check our email or the latest notifications on Facebook, it is not because we are overwhelmed by information; often, we are not even engaging with our mobile phone when the urge comes,” says Jelle Bruineberg, a philosopher at the University of Copenhagen, in a university release. “But the action of checking our phone affords us easy access to a very satisfying reward: a piece of novel information. This craving for novelty is, according to cognitive neuroscience, a basic aspect of the way our minds work.”

This new study, the first to provide experimental scientific evidence for this theory, is published in the journal Psicothema.

You might also be interested in:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *