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New study finds iPhone separation anxiety is real

January 12, 2015

A recent study found being separated from one's iPhone can cause significant anxiety and a drop in cognitive function. Is this an indication that technology is becoming an extension of ourselves?

A recent study found that being separated from one’s iPhone can cause significant anxiety and a drop in cognitive function. Is this an indication that technology is becoming an extension of ourselves?

Studies find that you should keep your iPhone close to you
A recent research project was conducted with 40 iPhone users. The participants were asked to complete a puzzle with their smartphones close by. A second test was then administered after the phones were taken away. The participants experienced an increased heart rate and noticeable anxiety when researchers rang the phones during the second test. The participants also showed difficulty in solving the puzzle, reported The Next Digit. Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, concluded that being separated from one’s smartphone can affect cognitive ability.

“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks,” said Clayton.

The study argued that smartphones were becoming an extension of people. After the second puzzle, users without their phones indicated that they felt unpleasantness and anxiety. In a world where people increasingly rely on their mobile devices to message others, set alarms, shop online and read news, the results of the study are not surprising.

What the study means for society
According to The Huffington Post, Clayton was confident in his conclusion that people who are separated from their ringing phones experience negative effects. Increasingly, losing a phone is seen as a catastrophe, not simply an inconvenience, and the recent study is a testament to the validity of that sentiment.

Clayton explained that when users are separated from their smartphones, they experience a lessening of self and take on a negative physiological state. As people become more accustomed to using their smartphones in many tasks throughout their everyday lives, perhaps some attention should given to the side effects of separation anxiety.

“Our advice would be to carry your iPhone with you,” Clayton told The Huffington Post. “But to silence your phone during cognitively demanding tasks in order to avoid any potential distractions that may reduce your attention throughout the day.”

How e-commerce and Internet businesses should interpret the study
The effects of separation from smartphones do not have to be seen in a negative light. Technology and devices have come a long way and offer society many advantages. Today, people are able to connect, communicate, conduct research and purchase items faster and with greater ease than ever before. Dependence on smartphones can be seen as natural as dependence on electricity.

Businesses that operate in traditional brick-and-mortar store settings that deal predominantly in cash should reconsider their business models. The world is going digital in all areas and online catalogs and mobile payments are the way of the future. Perhaps purchasing or upgrading point-of-sale systems and designing websites with mobile in mind are warranted moves. People are obviously attached to their phones and can’t stand to be without. Businesses should focus more on mobile devices and offer customers additional online services. 

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