Do you ever worry whether you might be psychologically addicted to your smart phone? One measure might be—whether, under what circumstances, and for how long—you are able to live without it. However, a new survey reported in the business section of The New York Times this week suggests one more telltale sign of this uncontrollable addiction: Talking and texting on the toilet.
The marketing agency, 11Mark, surveyed more than 1000 smartphone users and found that 75 percent of respondents talk or text in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet. There are generational differences, of course, but the statistics are impressive irrespective of age. The same survey found that among those between the ages of 28 and 35, a whopping 91 percent embrace the practice of using smartphones on the toilet; even among those over the age of 65, who are non-digital natives, some 47 percent have adopted the habit.
In case you are wondering what people do with their devices once they're ensconced on the throne, the diverse survey responses highlight the versatility of smart phones. People not only place and answer calls—and text—but they also surf the Internet, participate in conference calls and meetings, and make retail purchases.
Admittedly, I'm one of them. I make Words with Friends moves when I wake up to piddle. And yes, I do worry about the health implications of bacterial transmission via smartphone. The urge to use is so powerful, however, that I'm able to assuage my concerns with an occasional antibacterial wipe of the device and assiduous handwashing practices.
If it's not in my hands, my smart phone is always in my pocket or purse. I'm embarrassed to say, I also take it to bed (keeping it on my night table). And when I'm in a baño, I'm extremely appreciative of public restrooms that have a tiny shelf on the side of the stall. My friend Linda has had the humiliating experience, twice, of dropping her smart phone in public toilets while multitasking.
I recently asked my dental hygienist how common the practice was of patients holding smartphones on their laps as they had their teeth cleaned. She told me that the only people who didn't hold them were those who didn't have them.
So if anyone looks at you askew after you flush, remind them that people have read newspapers and books on iohns for ages. "This is, in a sense, a testimony to our collective passion for communication and contact over all other needs, and a lesson in how quickly ideas of decorum adjust to the times," writes Quentin Hardy in the New York Times. It is also a powerful example of how intermittent reinforcement (e.g. in the form of a "good news" text, a good online deal, hearing the voice of a friend, or making a good game move) can reinforce a behavioral addiction.