Reflection

The killer truth about smartphone addiction

By Kitty Knowles 20 March 2017
Smartphone addiction is the real killer. Pic: iStock/Rasulovs
Summary

One Briton has died. Don't be the next victim.

Do you recall what you were doing on Sunday 11 December 2016? Were you dashing between shops ticking presents off in Notes? Did you spent the day in bed swiping through Facebook photos of the bash the night before?

One man, was relaxing in the bath, also with his smartphone in hand.

His family marked Christmas without him.

Richard Bull

It would be easy for the cruel-hearted to poke fun at Richard Bull: the 32-year-old was electrocuted in the bath after his iPhone charger made contact with the water.

When the coroner’s report was released last week, I overheard someone cuttingly suggesting he’d be a fitting nominee for the Darwin Awards.

But who can honestly say they haven’t used their phone in the bath? (A quick sweepstake in our office saw all-round admissions).

Most would stop short of charging their phone in the bathroom, but it’s easy to understand why others might (wrongly) believe a meagre 5v power cable couldn’t possibly cause harm.

Richard Bull wasn’t killed through stupidity, he was a victim of smartphone addiction.

A nation of smartphone addicts

Today, most of us struggle to leave our smartphones out of arm’s reach. Even for the hour we might spend in the bath.

What’s more, when it comes to measuring risk, our smartphones make us behave in weird ways. As public health adviser Sheila Merrill says: “Electricity and water don’t mix, but particularly with phones, people probably don’t always think about it.”

Already, selfies kill more people than sharks, as people go to extreme lengths to capture the perfect photo on their phone; while fans following Pokemon Go are so absorbed they’re also at risk of ‘death by distraction‘.

How many of you have walked into people and lampposts while scrolling away at your smartphone screen? What about the people who’re so busy tweeting they simply walk out into roads, or those who Whatsapp behind the wheel?

Outwardly these are all clearly dangerous things to do, but as a society, too often we can’t put our phones down.

Don’t be a victim

We talk about ‘mindfulness’, and the idea of ‘digital detoxes’ often. But frankly these can sometimes feel like airy-fairy, elitist fluff: things special people do to improve their wellbeing, like going on a spa-break or eating organic food.

In the real world, where everyone has a smartphone, smartphone addiction impacts us all. And unless we better emphasis the risks, the whole world will sleepwalk into increasing levels of danger.

Yes, Bull’s death has lead campaigners to reinforce the danger of Facebook-ing in the bathtub. But more widely, we need to build a society where people aren’t afraid to put their phones down for a few minutes or hours.

We bet you have a smartphone habit that’s putting you in danger – either mentally or physically.

Remind yourself of the risks:

Don’t be the next victim of death by smartphone.

Read more: This simple trick could cure your smartphone addiction