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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

7 Scary Cell Phone Facts That'll Make You Question Your Addiction

person using a cell phone in the office
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

So, maybe you spend a little too much time on your phone. Or a lot too much time. And you know you do. But does that mean you’ve stopped? I’m going to guess. Probably not.

You may also feel like you’ll never find enough time in the day to get all your work done and fit in family, friends, exercise, hobbies, and all the rest. But maybe, just maybe, if you weren’t on your phone so much, you could take a few steps toward that elusive state of work-life balance people say exists.

Now, just because you’ve realized that your small screen’s become your most loyal companion or the object of your most unconditional devotion—and even if you’ve realized that might not be the best thing for you or anyone around you—doesn’t mean you’ve done anything to change it yet.

If that gnawing awareness isn’t enough, maybe these facts will help motivate you to finally make a change.

1. iPhone Owners Unlock Their Devices an Average of 80 Times Per Day

I’d bet that your phone is within arm’s distance (if not finger distance) of you right now—even if you’re at your desk at work. So it’s not surprising that you’ll probably end up unlocking it dozens upon dozens of times a day.

Apple revealed this statistic in 2016 while expounding on the security and user benefits of its Touch ID feature. Spread over a 24-hour period, that’d mean the average owner unlocks their phone every 18 minutes. But when you account for the hours you’re asleep, that means it’s even more frequent.

2. 89% of Undergraduates in a Study Experienced Phantom Vibrations

Have you ever thought your phone was vibrating only to realize it wasn’t? The vast majority of the 290 undergrads who participated in a study conducted at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne and published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior in 2012 did.

3. 53% of Millennials Wake Up at Least Once Every Night to Check Their Phones

You know that sleep is important to having a productive workday. But more likely than not (if you’re a Millennial), you’re interrupting your own rest to check your phone—in the middle of the night!

According to a survey by Qualtrics and Accel Partners, 79% of Millennials put their phones right by them when they sleep and 53% wake up at least once every night to check them.

Not only that, but nearly 60% check their phones even before they use the bathroom in the morning. The same study found that close to half (42%) haven’t spent more than five waking hours without taking a look at social media.

4. The Average Person Spends Hours on Their Phone Each Day

A 2017 report from comScore found that the average US adult spent two hours and 51 minutes on mobile—per day. Other studies have found similar or higher usage. Nielsen, for example, found in a 2018 report that U.S. adults spent an average of 2.4 hours a day on apps or web on a smartphone. Flurry put the number way higher, saying in a 2016 report that “the average U.S. consumer spends a whopping 5 hours a day on [mobile] devices.”

5. 89% of Mobile Phone Owners in a Survey Said They Used Their Phones During Their Most Recent Social Gathering

Let’s dive into that whole work-life balance conundrum. Whether or not you’re getting enough of the -life part, there’s a good chance that you’re not taking advantage of your off-time even when you have it.

You probably agree there are situations outside the office when you should put that phone away. Here’s what percentage of adults said it was “generally OK” to use a cell phone in various settings in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey:

  • “At church or worship service” (4%)
  • “At the movie theater or other places where others are usually quiet” (5%)
  • “During a meeting” (5%)
  • “At a family dinner” (12%)
  • “At a restaurant” (38%)
  • “While waiting in line” (74%)
  • “On public transportation” (75%)
  • “While walking down the street” (77%)

And yet, 89% of the adults who own a cell phone also said they’d used them during their most recent social gathering: 61% “read a message such as text or email”; 58% “took a photo or video”; 52% “sent a message such as a text or email”; 52% “received an incoming call”; 34% “checked to see if you’ve received any alerts”; 33% “placed a call”; 29% “used an app”; and 25% “searched or browsed the web.”

6. Americans Use Phones While Driving, on Dinner Dates, in Church, and Even During Sex

And the bleak you’re-not-really-present-when-recharging-outside-of-work stats continue! The 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits study, conducted by Harris Interactive for Jumio, found that Americans use their phones:

  • “During sex” (9%)
  • “In the shower” (12%)
  • “While at church/place of worship” (19%)
  • “In a movie theater” (35%)
  • “On a dinner date” (33%)
  • “At a child’s/school function” (32%)

7. Cell Phones Carry 10 Times the Bacteria Found on Most Toilet Seats

If none of that worked to convince you, I leave you with this one. It’s truly disgusting. But it’s also the truth. Scientists at the University of Arizona have seen phones that had 100,000 bacteria on them. Microbiologist Charles Gerba asks: “When's the last time you cleaned your cellphone?”

So, now that you now these seven things, what do you think about spending a little less time on that phone? But actually? Put it down and step away.

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