Have you checked your smart phone in the last 5 minutes?

If you did, STOP IT NOW!'Psst!  Buddy  you wanna check your email?' - An Andertoons Cartoon

Each generation of professionals is faced with new technologies as they enter the workforce.  Telex, fax machines and desktop computers were all “new” technologies for earlier generations.  One of the features of these ancient modes of communication is that they were reserved for the office– no one would dream of powering off their fax machine and tucking it into their backpack to bring home for the evening.


Next. . . enter the more mobile devices such as pagers and 1st gen cell phones.  While you could bring these devises home or wear them on your belt, you were not compelled to constantly check these devices– when someone called or paged you, your device would ring, buzz, beep or vibrate.  You wouldn’t dial in to your voice mail box every 5 minutes– you wouldn’t even consider it. What’s more, could imagine what someone would look like if they did do that?  It is not that much different than looking at your smart phone every 5 minutes.

Cell Phone circa 1984

With today’s smart phone, part of the obsessive checking comes from that fact that there might always be an email, text or voice mail waiting.

Does the possibility that someone attempted to communicate with you require this behavior? 

If we were obsessed in the same way with an object other than a smart phone, it is likely that medication would be prescribed.

Elizabeth Cohen, Senior Medical Correspondent for CNN.com wrote a article highlighting some of the recent findings in a study in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. Here is a snapshot of the article:

  • On average, study subjects checked phones 34 times a day out of habit or compulsion
  • Once the brain gets used to positive feedback, reaching for the phone is automatic
  • Urge to check lives in striatum, the brain area that governs habitual actions
  • Habitually checking can also become a way to avoid interacting with people

According to CNN.com. . .

How to know if you’re a habitual checker

1. You check your e-mail more than you need to.
2. You’re annoying other people.
3. The thought of not checking makes you break out in a cold sweat.

How to get rid of your checking habit

1. Acknowledge you have a problem.
2. Have smartphone-free times.
3. Have smartphone-free places.

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