According to a survey conducted by the China Youth Daily, 71.8 percent of China’s web users feel that reliance on mobile phones is causing people to ignore social interactions in real life, and that seeing people ignore their friends in favor of their phones is a common occurrence. 55.7 percent think that overuse of mobile phones is actively damaging people’s social skills. 46.1 percent said that reliance on mobiles was making people’s social circles smaller, and nearly 30 percent said it was making them more lonely.
And over-reliance isn’t just damaging to one’s social life, either: 57.1 percent said it was hurting eyesight, 52.3 percent felt it was bad for overall health, and 35.7 percent said it was giving people attention deficit problems.
It’s no wonder, really: on the same survey 57.1 percent of the respondents said that they used their phones for more than an hour each day, not counting time spent on actual phone calls or texting. And nearly 20 percent of those said they used their phones for more than three hours a day not counting calling and texting.
The survey also found other signs of addiction: 36.8 percent said they had experienced “phantom phone rings,” 36.4 percent said they were never without their phones, 30.2 percent admitted to aimlessly looking at their phones for no reason, and 24 percent said they’d heard warnings like “Stop playing with your phone!” before.
So what are all these people doing on their phones? Here’s an interactive chart we made of the China Youth Daily‘s results:
The survey was conducted across several different websites, and as such, its respondents almost certainly skewed towards being younger, urban, and wealthier than the average Chinese person. And of course, as with any web poll, there are other issues from selection bias to technology glitches to keep in mind. With that said though, at 12,098 respondents, the results of the survey shouldn’t be taken too lightly.
It’s easy to dismiss the results of this survey as people being overly worried, but scientific studies have shown that the mere presence of a mobile phone can negatively impact social relationships, and mobile usage has been shown to have all kinds of effects on behavior, including increasing selfishness. Anecdotally, most of us have probably used our phones as a way to get out of an awkward conversation or make it look like we’re busy to avoid talking to someone. We may not think of those mobile-inspired behaviors as significant, but it seems that they are, especially over the long term.
It is darkly ironic that our increasingly local-, social-focused mobile phones are actually making us less social and less aware of what’s going on around us. But that’s apparently true, and if the China Youth Daily‘s survey is any indication, Chinese users are already well aware of it.
It will be interesting to see if in the long-term, mobile phone and especially smartphone use changes Chinese business culture, which is very focused on connections and personal relationships. If that seems like a stretch, it isn’t necessarily. Mobile phones have already had a huge impact on Chinese culture, and fundamentally changed one of its oldest traditions: spring festival greetings.
Traditionally, in the days after spring festival, people would visit their friends and relatives to wish them well face-to-face. But as mobile phones became commonplace across the country, people began sending their greetings as text messages instead. While people still often visit their close relatives in person, other acquaintances now get only a text message rather than a face-to-face visit. Whether that’s a bad thing or a good thing probably depends on how much you like seeing your distant relatives in person — for some, the advent of texted spring festival greetings was probably a godsend. But mobile phones definitely have the power to reshape even our most deeply-rooted cultural traditions and behaviors, and as smartphones get more pervasive, the changes are likely to get more dramatic.
(China Youth Daily via TechWeb)