Few corners of the planet remain uncolonized by mobile phones, which has led society to growing concern about the problematic use of these devices, especially among the youngest. Although if we lifted our heads from the screen we would see around us that this digital epidemic is global and almost no social strata or age group is safe from falling into its networks. In relation to this dilemma, scientists from the University of Granada (UGR) have shed light on a fascinating reality: our apparent “addiction” to mobile phones may not be an attraction to the technology per se, but to human connection that these devices facilitate. This conclusion, which emerges from the heart of a recent study published in Psychothemaprovides experimental evidence for the theory proposed by Professor Samuel PL Veissière of McGill University in 2018.
The research team, led by Jorge López Puga from the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment of the UGR, set out to unravel the threads that weave our relationship with smartphones. In an ingenious study involving 86 participants, researchers designed two different scenarios. The group called “social expectation” was instructed to stoke the anticipation of their most active contacts on their favorite social network by sending a uniform message via Whatsapp describing their participation in an “exciting” virtual reality task. The other group, the control group, remained in digital silence, without generating any expectations.
Once the seed of social anticipation, participants were asked to turn off notifications and place their phones face down, while immersed in the virtual reality task. They were subsequently left in a state of inaction, without access to their devices. Eventually, they were allowed to resume using WhatsApp.
Measurement of signs of addiction in the electro-galvanic activity of the skin
Throughout this experiment, the electro-galvanic activity The subjects’ skin was monitored, serving as a barometer of anxiety, nervousness and psychological arousal. The results were clear: those in the group that had been suggested to have greater social expectancy showed higher levels of tension and anxiety when denied use of the phone, and more intense arousal when regaining access to their device.
What this study suggests is revolutionary in its simplicity: mobile technology itself is not an addictive villain. Rather, it is the context of use—the underlying social purpose—that might explain certain behaviors we have hastily labeled “addiction.” This “may be useful for the development of treatments for those disorders related to the inappropriate use of the mobile phone,” suggests López Puga. It is clear that in our digital age, where the lines between the virtual and the real become increasingly intertwined, understanding the true nature of our connection to technology is more crucial than ever.