Are you addicted to your smartphone?


Within 2013, the number of smartphone owners is expected to reach about half of all cell phone users in Japan, and over the next several years, the figure will eventually rise to 70%, a reporter at a national daily newspaper tells Shukan Taishu (Feb 11).

The phone’s large screens permit viewing of web sites on the Internet, and among their impressive applications are maps with navigation functions.

On the other hand, they can be highly addictive, which has led others to grumble over growing numbers of distracted smartphone users.

“All of the young employees here constantly play with their phones during work,” complains the 53-year-old sales manager of a foodstuffs company in Tokyo. “If they’ve got that much time on their hands, they should be out calling on clients, but they say they’re ‘collecting data.’ Previously while we were holding a meeting to introduce a new product, one young guy in his 20s was holding his phone under his desk and fiddling with it. I warned him, and he said, unapologetically ‘There was something I had to check.’”

Their usage in public places can also be dangerously distracting.

“On my way home, I let myself get completely wrapped up in a game, and at the station I bumped into someone and fell off the platform,” a 28-year-old wage earner relates. “I broke my elbow. If a train had been approaching just then, I would have been in real trouble.”

Neither old nor young people deny their dependence on the multiple functions and convenience of smartphones, says Toshiyuki Inoue, a journalist who covers information technology. “With the push by phone providers to line up middle-aged and elderly customers from last year in particular, their dependence on smartphones has been conspicuous.”

One 44-year-old housewife became infatuated with blogs and Twitter.

“Even when our 6-year-old pleaded with me, ‘C’mon, mom, let’s play,’ I would brush him off by saying, ‘Don’t bother me,’” she recalls. “Every morning my face would look tired from lack of sleep, like it had never been before. And while in a restaurant, if I couldn’t get a signal, I’d ask to be moved to another table.”

Finally during the New Year’s holiday, she even found herself operating her phone while lying on a beach at an overseas resort, and she finally realized the toll the phone was taking on her time and household budget.

A medical writer tells the magazine the symptoms of smartphone addiction may include headaches, vertigo, loss of parasympathetic nerve function, and in a worse cases, depression.

Are you a smartphone “addict?” The 10-point self-test below should be able to tell you one way or the other. Just circle each number that applies to you.

1. You feel anxiety when you’re separated from your phone.
2. You carry your phone into the toilet or bath.
3. You keep using your phone even while together with intimate friends.
4. Posting messages on Twitter gives you more pleasure than speaking to people.
5. You often pick up the phone for no particular reason.
6. If somebody talks to you while you’re using the phone, even your child or a lover, you feel annoyed.
7. You use your phone while driving.
8. You persist in using the phone even when your eyes feel tired or your shoulders stiffen.
9. During a sports broadcast, you miss some important play because you were focused on inputting something into the phone.
10. You have in the past lost a friend, a lover or a spouse as a result of smartphone use.

If you score 8 or above, you’ve got a serious case of smartphone addiction. A score of between 4 and 7 puts you in the danger zone. But even 1 yes out of the 10, the magazine warns, calls for vigilance.

  • 3

    Kimokekahuna Hawaii

    The smart phone is just in its first phase of societal addiction. It is a saving grace for women on a busy train not having to make eye contact with men. I think there is going to be posture problems from people bent over their phones. I also think the next wave is a phone that can make text with your voice recognition so people do not text and drive.. or text and WALK, have you seen people crossing streets not paying attention? Stop it.. wake up.. People now have a relationship with their phone.. I know people who talk to Siri on Iphone like she is a real person.. soon I predict the computer companion will be a self aware program who will learn from you and interact ... maybe calling other the Siri in another phone to find out things.. like where a husband is.. tracking kids gps signature on the phone.. think about that? What if your phone becomes jealous.. turns itself on when you are not aware.. lets you know when a spouse is cheating... it has an eye.. could be watching you and you dont know it.. mmmmm

  • 2



  • 6


    This is a worldwide phenomenon. Smartphones have changed the societies that are affluent enough for the majority of people to afford one in a very short time. I was recently in Singapore for a few days and the young people there are as obsessed with their phones as anyone. Stopping in Starbucks was incredible because I noticed all of these people who were clearly on a date were sitting staring at their phone as opposed to conversing with their partner who was right in front of them. It's quite bizarre to see. Australia is the same. Not 5 years ago it was considered poor manners to pull out your phone in company and talk or text - not anymore. That social convention has been completely abandoned. Even some of my 40 year old friends who should know better have fallen into the habit.

  • 4

    Pattie Inoue

    No, coz i don't own one and never intend to.

  • 2


    “On my way home, I let myself get completely wrapped up in a game, and at the station I bumped into someone and fell off the platform,” a 28-year-old wage earner relates. “I broke my elbow. If a train had been approaching just then, I would have been in real trouble.”.

    This is the sum of our ambition?

  • 0


    So many lols here.

    The phones are not the problem; they just highlight / empower the inherent problems with the people who use them problematically.

    I rely on mine extensively; gmail, maps, xe, google drive, etc, are all vital for my work and have allowed for a much faster, more streamlined and efficient way of working. I am definitely better off with mine. But then, I am not one of the brainless horde.

  • 1


    I'm compiling a list of addicts I know who badly need to read this article, and I'm already up to 37.

  • 0


    Interesting.....was reading and posting to this on my smartphone too.

  • 0

    Christopher Smith

    I love taking the train and watching almost everyone engrossed in their phones - of course then i proceed to remove my Iphone from my bag and tinker around.

  • 1


    What people do with their phones is unimportant -- the phones' key purpose is to abet social withdrawal, a practice that started in the early 1980s with Sony's walkman. It's been estimated that about 1 million Japanese shut themselves off from the world by hikikomori. But estimates of de facto social withdrawal, in which people do leave their houses and yet still manage to insulate themselves from the world around them, is as high as 5 million. Now smartphone users ought to boost that number by four or fivefold. I'm under the impression that a significant portion of adult Japanese are living in a self-absorbing cloud cuckoo land.

  • 8


    You keep using your phone even while together with intimate friends.

    This is a huge problem in Japan. People going out together, couples on dates and they both use their bloody phones. :/

    Also people who play games on their phones while walking. sod off.

  • 0


    yes i am. my bro sent me a samsung s3 as a gift just last month. prior to that i used an old school japanese phone from au which i was happy with. this new smartphone is driving me nuts! i can't stop downloading all these apps, it's like a drug. someone please help. every hour i shoot some photos and upload to facebook, for what? i need to stop

  • 2


    University of California is currently conducting a research if Chimp is addicted to ipad. So far the finding is Chimp loves it and wants to keep it longer in her hands.This Chimp is learning some systems. Amazing.

  • 5

    Jeff Ogrisseg

    Just 10 years ago the headlines said "Are you addicted to your cellphone?" Before that, "Are you addicted to your Tamagochi?" What is this fascination with addiction? I'm a functional technology junkie, but I can put the phone or iPad aside, even put the computer to sleep, especially when I'm with an intimate friend.

  • 2


    @Virtuoso; the phones key purpose certainly is not to abet social withdrawal; people seeking this will use whatever method they can to achieve it.

    The smart phone is a fantastic invention, giving the user access to all the information known to make, at the click of a button, an interactive map of the entire world, the ability to video call anybody for free around the world, etc.

    The problem is not the phone. The problem is people; they are wasting this astonishingly fantastic device by using it for rubbish. THAT is the problem.

  • -3


    Necessary evil these things, use it for work but if i could get away without one i BLOODY would!

    I dread when I get a new phone as it will have a big screen & all the BS along with, dont wanna be sucked in aghhhhhhh!

  • 3


    It's hard to be addicted to that which you do no have.

  • 2


    Phew! I thought I was, but according to those questions I'm not addicted to my phone. What a relief!

  • 1


    Haha, exactly! I see nothing inherently wrong with something which has such immense power. Imagine if somebody from the 1920s came to our time, and saw what we had access to in the palm of our hands. Then saw what most people were using it for... Their joy would soon turn to disappointment and anger at how wasteful and stupid most people were.

  • 0


    Don't have one, so No.

  • -2


    I only scored in #2.

  • 0

    Hunter Brumfield

    What will we tell our grandchildren?

  • 4


    I had lunch a few days ago with a group of girlfriends ... it was supposed to be a big occasion, a fancy meal with several courses, but it was ruined by their stupid smartphone behaviours. For example, they insisted on taking photos of every single course (meaning that I had to wait while the food went cold for them to get the perfect angle). Then they had to tweet continually throughout the meal, and check for any incoming tweets too. One of them even propped up her phone on a spare chair, so she wouldn't miss any messages. It was impossible to hold a conversation with those stupid tweets coming in every couple of minutes.

    I felt really uncomfortable the whole time, and couldn't enjoy the food at all.

    I hate those stupid smartphones, I'll never get one. And i don't think those people are my friends anymore.

  • 1


    Lotta social changes in process here. Like when tobacco leaf first arrived in Europe from "the colonies' and coffee from Arabia...lot of irritated people. It's hard to tell what is important, but still, I agree with many irritated commentators here.

  • 0


    Who are these awful people you've been hanging out with? They don't support you when you're being stalked and they take photos of their food and tweet during meals! It's not the phones, it's the people, trust me. I have a smartphone and neither tweet nor take photos of my food and if I did do either of those things, I wouldn't do them when I was with people. My friends don't either or they wouldn't be my friends. It's just common decency that when you're with people you pay attention to them and not your phone. You definitely need a new group of friends.

  • 0


    It's hard to be addicted to that which you do not have.

    My sentiments exactly!

    Who are these awful people you've been hanging out with? They don't support you when you're being stalked and they take photos of their food and tweet during meals!

    they're all Japanese, in case that's relevant ...

  • 0


    I'm not sure if it is or not but I've got plenty of Japanese friends and they don't engage in the kind of behavior you mentioned. Maybe it's a generational thing. Either way, I'd talk to them about it and if they don't change, I'd stop hanging around with them. It's not like you'll be missing any stimulating conversation or anything.

  • -1


    It's not like you'll be missing any stimulating conversation or anything.

    That's for sure! But anyway, I met with the same group of friends a couple of years ago for lunch, before any of them had smartphones. None of them behaved in such an obnoxious fashion then. They did take a photo with their cell phone cameras, but it was only one group pic at the end of the meal. Aside of that, they kept their phones in their handbags and ignored them. And there was none of this ridiculous tweeting business, either.

    I'm under the impression that a significant portion of adult Japanese are living in a self-absorbing cloud cuckoo land.

    Yes, they really are. And I'm determined not to join them.

  • 1


    To all those who say you will never get smart phones; you will get one eventually because in about 10 years, it will be your only option. The age of the feature phone is over. And people were just as absorbed into those phones as they are smart phones. This is nothing new.

  • 0


    No, but I m addicted to wanting to tell the smart phone users to put it away a lot of times, but try to be polite and keep silent, unlike the smart phone users, not all by the way.

  • 0


    This really raises an issue about social etiquette and modern manners…

  • 1

    Alejandro Dela Cruz

    addiction is always bad.

  • 0


    No. Mine is a Blackberry, which i guess is only semi-intelligent. Not a big user. Make calls and do some email and that's it. I just don't get the infatuation with the phone and constant checking to see if anything new received and all the apps that come on a smartphone. Maybe a dinosaur I guess

  • 0



    Sent from my iPhone

  • 0


    I was talking to an elderly woman just last week who was going on about a new Japanese catch-phrase "Sma-fo Byou" ('Smart phone disease') or something like that, talking about how young people are developing poor posture and all kinds of illnesses as a result because they are always bending their necks, hunched over, looking down at the screen. I asked her what she was doing as she read to me from her newspaper clipping, bent neck, hunched over, looking down at the piece of paper.

    People, especially an older generation looking down at a younger one, will blame the newest technologies for the woes and ills of society, and this is just the latest. "Type-writers will lead to laziness and this and that illness", "The personal computer will be the downfall of society", etc. etc. Do smart phones result in some bad habits? Sure they do! Same as kids would sit on landlines all night gossiping with friends, will pass notes written by pencil on paper in class, etc. There will always be abuse of whatever is available.

    That said, there are reasons people might feel angst or 'suffer' the above addict-like symptoms if separated from their smart phones, because smart phones (being, ahem, much more than any technology to date and hence 'smart') have replaced a LOT of other technologies in one unit. They are not only a means of communication, but appointment books, alarms, navigation systems, dictionaries, calculators, books, notebooks, methods of payment, and needless to say entertainment. On a few of occasions I have forgotten my phone and only realized after I was well on my way to work. Out of those rare occasions a couple of times I chose not to go back and get it. In a way I felt a sense of liberation, as I do use my phone a bit much for all sorts of things, but I later learned I also missed an email about a cancellation of an appointment, where I waited for quite some time unknowing as a result.

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