There is a good chance you are reading this blog post on your smartphone. After all, a considerable slice of Internet activity is now done on mobiles. Even if you are not reading this on your smartphone, you probably have your phone at your side or in your pocket. It is as though we are umbilically attached to them.
However, new research suggests that doctors can easily predict whether someone is depressed simply as a result of their smartphone usage. It turns out that our mobile phone behaviour is an extraordinarily accurate way of diagnosing depressive illness.
The study, from Northwestern University, Chicago, showed that there are three “markers” of depression revealed by our smartphone usage. These are:
- Time spent on the phone
- Alterations to daily schedules
- Not travelling far
Depressed people spend 17 minutes more each day on the phone than non-depressed individuals. It appears that we each spend about an hour a day on the phone, but people with depressive conditions spend 68 minutes.
The depressed individual is also open to more change in their daily activity. This is revealed on the phone by the variable times of day they do the same thing, such as leaving the house to go to work.
The study also revealed that depressed people tend not to travel very far – something revealed by their location information stored on their phone.
Three psychological reasons to use your mobile phone less
The study suggests there are three good reasons why we should use our mobiles less than we do. Behind the fact that depressed people spend more time on their phones than non-depressed individuals is because of avoidance behaviour. Depressed people are spending more time on their phone so they spend less time with other people.
That’s a warning to non-depressed people. The more time you spend playing with apps on your phone, the less time you spend with other people. Those other people could be customers, potential clients or family. Either way, that’s not good. The more time spent on your phone, the less time you have for people.
The fact that depressed people also have a more disrupted routine is also linked to avoidance behaviour. But it also suggests the attraction of the phone’s capabilities take our “eye off the ball”. We can easily become absorbed in some activity on our mobiles, only to discover that time has run away with us and we are going to be late for the meeting.
Finally, the fact that depressed people tend to travel less distance than non-depressed people is another signal that the phone can change our behaviour. After all, why do you need to travel far when you can stay at home and send people an email using your phone? The mobile phone means it is much easier to avoid travelling. Again, you have to question whether that is good for your business.
So, there are three reasons why the smartphone could be affecting your business:
- It lets you avoid meeting people
- It makes it easy to disrupt timetables
- It allows for less face-to-face
Perhaps the “smartphone” is not so smart after all.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+