Excuse me, while I check my phone

Updated: 2014-07-11 07:01

By Guo Yali (China Daily)

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My mother knocked at the bathroom door one morning, yelling, "Come out and watch the TV, doctors in Singapore say that smartphone addiction is a psychiatric disorder!"

She has been complaining about me using my cellphone all the time: Now, she's got the experts to back her up.

I stayed in the bathroom, checking the latest news on my phone, and saw that the psychiatrists in Singapore are pushing medical authorities to formally recognize addiction to the Internet and digital devices as a disorder. According to a report in the Agence France-Presse, a scholar at Nanyang Technological University defined digital addiction by a number of symptoms: the inability to control craving, anxiety when separated from a smartphone, a loss in productivity in studies or at work and the need to constantly check one's phone.

I am one of those smartphone users who take their phones into the bathroom, which is how I lost my last iPhone - don't ask - and I place it next to my pillow when I go to bed, as the first and last thing I do every day is to check the news apps and micro blogs. I also use it in restaurants so I can post photographs of dishes to friends on social media. I place it on the desk at work so that I can check it now and then to get updated with news and news of friends.

My smartphone is so indispensable to my life today that I would feel really inconvenienced and uncomfortable if I were unable to connect to the Internet.

Which means that I am addicted to some extent, I admit. But a psychiatric disorder? Surely not.

As a journalist I need to keep myself updated with news and trends, receiving or giving out assignments at any time of the day.

As a mother, I need be in touch with my daughter's teachers and other parents to discuss school arrangements, homework and other activities on a daily basis.

Also as a sociable person, I need to catch up with my friends, so we can share our happiness and disappointments.

So my smartphone actually keeps me sane in a sense.

Although I refuse to accept it is a psychiatric disorder, my smartphone does have negative effects on my health and might even threaten my safety, even while enriching my life and facilitating my work.

Although naturally right-handed, I now use the computer mouse left-handed, as a masseur warned me about my stiff neck and shoulder that have resulted from my sitting posture at work. Checking the phone day and night has surely compounded the problem.

I drove my car into the expressway guardrail last year while using my phone. Fortunately, no one was injured and the only damage was a 3,900-yuan ($626) scratch. But a woman I met in the emergency room, when I accompanied my father there after he fractured his toe, was not so lucky. She fell and broke her pelvis because she had her eyes on her phone. The physician treating her said it would be a problem for the rest of her life.

My 9-year-old daughter has an iTouch which she calls "my phone", which she uses to search for information, watch music videos, and chat with her friends.

But though she is still a top student at school and I don't have to worry about her homework at all, I do have concerns that she is a little overweight and a bit nearsighted. So I told her: "Put down your phone and I'll put down mine. Let's take a walk in the park."

My mother was happy about that, and she joined us.

So if I am an addict, at least I'm trying to break the habit.


 Excuse me, while I check my phone

Passengers on a Beijing subway are keen smartphone users. Zhang Cheng / Xinhua

(China Daily 07/11/2014 page20)