Friday, 5 December 2014

Fun and games

Smartphones are now equipped with a dazzling array of entertainments, using state-of-the-art graphics and algorithms. A quick pan around any public square thesedays, will reliably reveal young adults glued to their mobile devices.

It’s tempting to believe they might be using the technology to further work or school objectives; probably some of them are. But research suggests they are most often using their phones for gaming and entertainment.

A new study from Kent State University (USA) aims to better understand how young adult smartphone users experience daily leisure in the context of this new social phenomenon. The researchers surveyed a random sample of 454 college students, measuring total daily smartphone use, personality type and subjective experience of daily leisure.

The students were then divided into groups, based on similar patterns of smartphone use and personality type. Each group's experience of daily leisure was then compared. Three distinct types of smartphone users emerged: low-use 'extroverts', low-use 'introverts' and a high-use group.

The high-use group averaged more than ten hours phone use per day and accounted for approximately 25% of the sample. Perhaps unsurprisingly, particpants in this group reported a diminished experience of daily leisure. They experienced significantly more ‘leisure distress’ – that is, feeling uptight, stressed and anxious during free time. Andrew Lepp, lead researcher, commenting on the findings said:
"The high-frequency cell phone user may not have the leisure skills necessary to creatively fill their free time with intrinsically rewarding activities, For such people, the ever-present smartphone may provide an easy, but less satisfying and more stressful, means of filling their time."
By contrast, the low-use extrovert group averaged about three hours of smartphone use per day and experienced lower levels of leisure distress. They were more likely to actively engage in activities during their free time.

It seems evident from this study (if not from common sense) that being constantly connected to your phone is unlikely to enhance your experience of leisure. No matter what you’re doing on your phone, you’re doing something – arguably to distract yourself from uncomfortable feelings, as the findings suggest. There’s a word that describes activities employed to distract onseself from uncomfortable feelings – addiction.

Can you go a day without your smartphone? Does it serve as a useful substitute for more meaningful activities during leisure hours? Or maybe you work with those who are struggling with addiction in this area? No matter what, we'd love to hear from you.

Written by Jacqui Hogan  

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