Despite their distinct advantages and technological innovation, there is a tendency for new media forms to be viewed as contaminating elements within our already complex media world. Currently, we are surrounded by literature attempting to make valiant connections between media and all that is evil; Social media is linked to damaging of moral fibre and relationships, laptops to disconnected audiences, text messages to distractedness and risk, smart phones to social isolation, electromagnetic radiation to cancer, and it doesn’t stop there.
An increase in mobile phone use has often been likened to user dependence and ‘addiction’ to such technologies. For many, mobile phones have become the modern-day version of a security blanket and typically, when users misplace their device, have it stolen or lose reception, panic tends to set in.
This state of fear has even been given a name – Nomophobia – which is the fear of being disconnected from one’s mobile phone. The physical side effects include panic attacks, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, sweating, chest pain and nausea (All About Counselling 2013) and according to a recent study by Cisco,the condition affects 9 out of 10 mobile phone users under the age of 30 in Australia (Michael & Sheppard 2013). If you say so, Cisco.
Similar conversation and research surrounding mobile phone ‘addiction’ is rampant. A study by Walsh, White and Young (2008) suggests that over-use of mobile phones disrupts social environments, encourages reliance on technology, increases the risk of accidents and leads to an increase in theft as adolescents attempt to pay bills that they cannot afford.
It is individuals’ removal of presence and disconnectedness from the very physical space in which they reside that has many critics caught in a moral fluster. However, as users are disconnected from their surrounding space, they are often reconnected elsewhere – through social media, text messaging, forums and the like. These very spaces in which the technology transports them to, foster conversation and cultivate vital interpersonal relationships, yet society seemingly ignores such physical and psychological benefits.
The fault surrounding the labeling of media ‘addiction’ and its associated disconnectedness is that it assumes that audiences are constantly in a state of constant attention, which is not the case (Bowles 2013). Often, one can be socially faulted for using a mobile phone whilst being spoken to, however, without the media in front of them, who is to say that their subconscious mind would not also be transporting them elsewhere, to thoughts of their grumbling belly and bread choice for their Subway six-inch? The truth is, often conversation is mundane and audience attention drifts. Are media technologies simply amusing the active mind in otherwise mediocre moments? Can we assume that audiences using their mobile phones are in fact disconnected, when perhaps they have multitasking and information processing in the modern media environment down to a fine art?
What are your experiences with your own mobile phone use? Do you consider yourself to be a multi-tasker? Or are you all for living in the moment? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.
All About Counselling 2013, ‘Nomophobia’, Internet Brands Health, viewed 30 August 2013.
Bowles, K 2013, ‘Media Content and Moral Panics’, lecture, BCM240, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 August.
Michael, P & Sheppard, F 2013, ‘Nomopobia, the fear of not having a mobile phone, hits record numbers’, The Sunday Mail, 2 June, viewed 30 August 2013.
Walsh, S, White, M & Young, R 2008, ‘Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of the relationship between Australian youth and their mobile phones’, Journal of Adolescence, vol.31, no1, pp.77-92.