I am iSelf

A dear friend of mine recently signposted me to this piece in The Times about how smartphones have now become second-nature to individuals and their self-identity. The article is based on a research project which was reported by Russell B. Clayton and his colleagues in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication*. I had a good chuckle when I read it, because it describes me to a T.

Yes – I am iSelf.

Clayton et al. opine that “negative psychological and physiological outcomes are associated with iPhone separation and the inability to answer one’s ringing iPhone during cognitive tasks.”  Thankfully, I can handle not being able to answer my during activities that prohibit such a disruption. However, I do not fare well at all when it comes to being separated from my beloved iPhone. Examples of such distressing detachments include getting to work and realising I’ve forgotten my iPhone at home (happened only once because the icy roads distracted me); inadvertently leaving my phone in the office whilst I went for lunch at the work cafeteria (has happened multiple times, and on those days, I usually get lunch to go and then hastily return to eat it in the office); leaving my phone at home whilst I popped into the corner shop near my house (although I realised this just after leaving the house, forced myself not to go back, then got to the shop and remembered that my shopping list was on my phone. Oh the irony!). In all these varied situations, the common thread was that my iSelf was unable to concentrate or function as per my usual optimal standards, because of the restless feeling and anxiety associated with forgetting my phone.

Such traumatic incidents serve only to underline my dependency on this ‘fifth limb’ of mine. Those who know me well, know that I use my phone for everything – from a plethora of work-related matters, such as the app which converts book barcodes into ready-formatted references; to personal entertainment resources such as the Hello! app from which I get my daily dose of celebrity gossip; to social tools, such as FaceTime, which impressively, even my grandmother now knows how to operate.

In fact, my iSelf is so attached to my iPhone, that I have the nocuous habit of checking things on it just before bedtime. Yes, I am one of those people to whom the cartoon on the right most certainly applies – made worse by the fact that I have the mammoth version of the recent iPhone, thus making me a perpetual victim of multiple incidents of   and .

So I can well empathise with the participants in the study, as well as concur with the research findings: being separated from our smartphones does indeed markedly impact the attention we give towards daily interactions.  I’d be interested to know if any of the readers of my blog have similar or differing thoughts and experiences. Do you have an iSelf identity too? Please do share.

* Clayton, R. B., Leshner, G. and Almond, A. (2015), The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12109

Saneeya Qureshi © 2015

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2 thoughts on “I am iSelf

  1. I am not sure if you would like to know that you share certain traits with the erstwhile Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, who recently received a reproof from the Prime Minister when he was so desperate not to be separated from his I-phone that he took it into the Cabinet meeting. A forbidden act.
    I am, however, more concerned for those poor digital native students who are forced to leave their phone behind every time they enter an examination room, including mock exams and maybe tests. It would be interesting to find out if their performance is impeded by such separation and whether the additional anxiety of such an enforced non-phone state causes them extra stress.
    I can not help but ponder whether this breaches their human rights or even constitutes a form of child cruelty.

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    • Carmel, I thought you were my friend until I read your first paragraph! On a serious note, you have raised a valid and timely point. A cursory literature trawl reveals the apparent lack of research with regard to smartphone-separation anxiety in school-going children and young persons. I just read the 14-page Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which surprisingly makes no mention of children’s rights in the context of IT resources, apart from a brief health-related statement recognising “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health… through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology” (Article 24, p.8). In an even more interesting twist, I just learned that whilst the CRC became international law on 2nd September 1990, USA is the one notable exception that signed the Convention but has still not ratified it.

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