Are Smartphones the Ultimate Security Blanket?



To a lot of people, their smartphone is that one item they can’t leave the house without. In many ways, smartphones have become as necessary for going out into public as wearing shirts, shoes and pants. Life shouldn’t be like that, right? Perhaps that’s a debate for another day.

However, what’s currently up for conversation is whether or not people are using smartphones – especially their apps and entertainment features – to distract themselves from a sometimes-challenging reality.

To figure this matter out, researchers from the University of Illinois had 72 students participate in a questionnaire about smartphone usage and their feelings. From there, they were asked to write about a personal flaw that made them feel uncomfortable, so that they would begin feeling vulnerable.

During said test, a third of the participants were granted zero access to their smartphone or any other technological device. Another third could toy around with a smartphone, while the final third were able to play a basic video game.

After the papers were submitted, researchers made the students wait around for 10 minutes until their work was reviewed. Of course, this allowed researchers to keep an eye on the students’ behaviour.

Upon the study’s conclusion, it was revealed that those who had access to their smartphones were 64% more likely to not experience anxiety compared to those who didn’t have their device handy. As for people who felt anxious during the study – even though they had access to a smartphone – 82% of them used their smartphone throughout the experiment. That number dropped to 50% for the anxious folks in the video game group.

Based on their findings, researchers came to the conclusion that smartphones can act as security blankets for usually anxious individuals. While this may be okay on some level, researchers cautioned that relying on such a strategy to curb stress might harm one’s natural ability to handle tough issues. Thus, in some circumstances, this type of behavior can have a troubling effect on a person’s metal health.

Surely, many of us have turned to our smartphones in a time of stress to help ease the mind. Perhaps, it’s time to keep the phone pocketed and try to better connect, accept and work on our feelings as opposed to relying on a digital distraction.

-Adam Grant