USA Today recently ran an article practically dubbing "app addiction" a real thing. "What is app addiction doing to people's health?, the article asked. What indeed?, we wonder. How about nothing at all?Do you jokingly refer to yourself as an "app addict?" That is, are you someone so obsessed with your mobile phone applications that you've filled numerous screens full of apps, play with them anytime you have 5 minutes to spare and sleep next to your phone just so it can be the first thing you grab in the morning? While there haven't been any studies yet on the impact of mobile phone application use and health,
Addiction is a Serious Word
"Addiction" is a word that's often tossed around in fun somewhat haphazardly, with people claiming they're "addicted" to everything from chocolate to TV to shoes. But real addiction is no joking matter. An addict is someone with a psychological or physical dependence to something and are unable to put an end to their behavior despite its negative consequences - behavior which, especially in the case of drug or alcohol addiction, can even lead to death. In more recent years, compulsive behaviors like gambling and online gaming have also fallen under the banner of "addiction" in cases where the behaviors become uncontrollable by the affected person.
Given the psychological component of addiction, it's not entirely off-base to question whether becoming addicted to mobile apps is the next big thing in technology-related addictions, as USA Today is obviously doing. But with no reported cases, no research, and no scholarly articles, it seems a little bit like jumping the gun to claim that app addiction is becoming a health issue.
Still, that didn't stop some experts from weighing in on the matter. Marina Picciotto, professor of psychiatry, neurobiology and pharmacology at Yale University told the paper, "there are a few parallels we can make from other addictions, like compulsive shopping. The consequences can be bad -- credit debt, time lost." And Hilarie Cash, a psychotherapist and co-founder of reStart, a Fall City, Washington-based Internet-addiction recovery center, warned that users should keep tabs on whether apps are taking over their real lives.
So how do you know if it's taking over your life? Cash says that if you spend more than 2 hours per day engaged with your digital equipment for non-work related or homework-related reasons, "then you've got cause for alarm."
Wow, if those are the guidelines for addiction then just about every American has television addiction given the 2 hours they sit in front of their TV sets from 8 PM to 10 PM watching primetime programming.
Could this Become a Real Problem?
That's not to say that people won't get addicted to mobile applications at some point, but let's not start a panic before all the data is in. Most of the self-proclaimed "app addicts" these days are still maintaining a healthy balance between work, life and play and are able to put their phones away when the time is right. Even those who use their mobile phones and related apps regularly aren't necessarily addicts in the true sense of the word.
What do you think? Is "app addiction" a real thing? Or will it become a serious problem in the future?