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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Smartphone addiction

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MGM Medical College and Hospital, MGM Institute of Health Sciences (Deemed to be University), Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission09-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance17-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication16-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sushil Kumar
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MGM Medical College and Hospital, MGM Institute of Health Sciences (Deemed to be University), Navi Mumbai 410209, Maharashtra.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mgmj.mgmj_11_21

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How to cite this article:
Kumar S. Smartphone addiction. MGM J Med Sci 2021;8:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Kumar S. Smartphone addiction. MGM J Med Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 6];8:1-2. Available from: http://www.mgmjms.com/text.asp?2021/8/1/1/311380

The invention of silicon chips, the computer, the internet, wi-fi, the cell phone, and now the smartphone has revolutionized the way we communicate. Multimedia, artificial intelligence, cloud, and digital apps are familiar names and the new norms of the day. The technological changes are happening so fast that it is difficult to keep pace with them. Some of the technologies and software get obsolete even before you master them. Can addiction to technology happen even in this fast-changing scenario?

The current issue of this journal has an article titled “Assessment of correlation between smartphone addiction, social anxiety, and self-esteem: A cross-sectional study” by Thatkar et al. highlighting the effects of smartphone addiction on “social anxiety” and “self-esteem.” The study also shows that smartphone addiction is more common in males and has a positive correlation with social anxiety and a negative correlation with lower self-esteem. The age of the subject was negatively correlated with the addiction. It is a questionnaire-based study based on validated questionnaires. However, on the search of the literature, we found certain studies with results just opposite to the study by Tatkar et al.[1],[2],[3] Therefore, we may assume that at the moment there is no consensus on the issue of smartphone addiction and its effects on human behavior.

It is a common perception that addiction is related to substance abuse like addiction to narcotics, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or psychotropic drugs. Addiction to smartphone sounds strange. Some people think that it is a nonentity while others feel that it is very much there. This is evident from the incidence of smartphone addiction which varies from 0 to 35% in various studies.[4] Before concluding on whether smartphone addiction could fit into conventional definitions of addictions, let us have a look at some of the definitions of addiction.

Merriam Webster dictionary[5] defines addiction as “A compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.”

The National Institute of Drug Abuse[6] defines addiction as, “Chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.”

As per Merriam Webster dictionary a “Smartphone addiction” may fit into the definition of addiction but many other definitions are more selective and include only substance abuse into the category of addiction. However, smart phone utility and so-called addiction is mainly addiction to the internet. If we take away internet connectivity from the smartphone their usefulness as well as habitual use will reduce substantially. Therefore, the use of the term “Smartphone addiction” is technologically incorrect and it may be replaced by internet addiction.

Godman[7] gave a very practical definition. He defined addiction as “Problematic behavior characterized by two things - firstly recurrent failure to control behavior and secondly the continuation of the behaviour despite significant negative consequences.” To sum up the issue of definitions we find that two specific points are included in most of the definitions—firstly the harm to the individual and secondly the craving or loss of control.

Coming to the utility of the smartphone, most of us consider it as a device which has made our life easier. We can communicate with anybody around the world at any time of the day and night. We have internet, email, WhatsApp, and camera on our mobile. We have hundreds of apps which can be downloaded on the smartphone free of cost. We can watch TV channels, movies, and videos. We can operate bank account sitting at home, pay bills, and take a loan, all on a smartphone. Smartphone use may even be comforting to the individual at the time of severe stress.[8] During the Covid-19 lockdown period it had been an ideal way to communicate as well as to order groceries and pay online through so many apps. However, there are problems with the use of smartphone or for that matter any mobile phone. People use it while driving and walking, which can lead to fatal accidents. In daily life too we do see these accidents quite often. But in simple terms, this can be labeled as misuse of the smartphone rather than addiction.

If there are so many advantages and very few problems in the use of smartphone then why do we think of smartphone addiction? At the best, it can be labeled as “Non-substance related addictive disorder.”[9] As it is said “the excessive use of anything may be harmful” same is the case with the use of the smartphone. However, it may be prudent for us to use the smartphone and internet within certain limits. More studies may be required to set a daily time limit on the use of internet and smartphone. However, at the moment, I do feel that the benefits of using smartphone outweigh the risk of addiction.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Bianchi A, Phillips JG Psychological predictors of problem mobile phone use. Cyberpsychol Behav 2005;8:39-51.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ehrenberg A, Juckes S, White K, Walsh S Personality and self-esteem as predictors of young people’s technology use. Cyberpsychol Behav Social Network 2008;11:739-41.  Back to cited text no. 2
Shaw LH, Gant LM In defense of the internet: The relationship between internet communication and depression, loneliness, self-esteem, and perceived social support. Cyberpsychol Behav 2002;5:157-71.  Back to cited text no. 3
Panova T, Carbonell X Is smartphone addiction really an addiction? J Behav Addict 2018;7:252-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/addiction. [Last accessed on 2021 January 17].  Back to cited text no. 5
The Science of Addiction - National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available at: https://d14rmgtrwzf5a.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/soa_2014.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 March 01].  Back to cited text no. 6
Godman MD Addiction: Definition and implications. Br J Addict 1990;85:1403-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
Panova T, Lleras A Avoidance of boredom: Negative mental health outcome associated with use of information and communication technologies depend on users’ motivations. Comput Hum Behav 2016;58:249-58.  Back to cited text no. 8
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5). 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 9


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