Smartphone Addiction: Habit, Health, Happiness – Episode 28

man snorting iPhone addiction

Just how addicted are we to smartphones? What does it mean for our physical and mental health, and how much does it really matter?  Emily and Melanie review stats on usage, psychological research on smartphone habits, health impacts, and the unclear safety of cell phones.


I. Smartphone proliferation:

  1. Global cell phone subscription soared from 12.4 million in 1990 to 7 billion in 2013.
  2. 2.7 hours per day are spent socializing on our cell phones – twice the time we spend eating.
  3. The typical smartphone user spends regarding $107 monthly for wireless access-more than the typical house pays for electricity each month. –, 10/19/13
  4. 15.7 billion texts are sent each month. That’s 363,426 per minute or 6,057 right this second. –Pong Research, 2013
  5. New moms spend more time on smartphones (their “lifelines”) than other adults. Average 37 hours per month, 20% more time than the average millennial (~31 hours). –LA Times, 10/24/13


  • Research shows that 73 percent of Americans would feel “panicked” without their smartphones
  • In a 2013 study, 30% of people admitted to snooping on someone else’s mobile phone
  • 12%  of people surveyed are concerned that smartphones are damaging their relationships
Why do we instinctively pull out our phones when we have a moment of non-occupation?

mother checking her phone baby stroller falls downChecking habits:

Because we use smartphones in so many different situations, and to accomplish so many different tasks, we develop a vast range of triggers and cues associated with pulling them out and looking at them.
-Scott Campbell, a communications professor at the University of Michigan
What concerns us here is that if your habitual response to, say, boredom, is that you pick up the phone to find interesting stimuli, you will be systematically distracted from the more important things happening around you. Habits are automatically triggered behaviors and compromise the more conscious control that some situations require…

-Antti Oulasvirta, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

Impacts on Health: Cell Phone Radiation

  • In May 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
  • Recall the hidden bit of legalese that comes in the safety manual for Apple’s iPhone 4: When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body, and only use carrying cases, belt clips, or holders that do not have metal parts and that maintain at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) separation between iPhone and the body.
  • Manufacturers of multiple smartphone brands place these warnings on user manuals to cover themselves in what is still a legally unclear situation. Continue reading “Smartphone Addiction: Habit, Health, Happiness – Episode 28”

Facebook Privacy, Shared Endorsements, and Online Mugshots – Episode 27

online mugshots category search by county

I. Facebook Gets Rid of Privacy for Profile Search

Anonymity on Facebook is a thing of the past. Facebook has changed its rules, making all users’ profiles searchable. The “Who can look up your Timeline by name” feature formerly allowed you to limit who could find your profile photo and basic info (friends, friends of friends, or no one). Facebook nixed this feature in December 2012 for anyone who was not using it (i.e. the majority of users). Those who were using the incognito setting were grandfathered in until now: every profile will be searchable. Granted, before this change, you could still be searched via graph search or a non-friend could locate your profile from your activity that showed up in their news feed. While this change may be useful for users trying to locate someone, in the long run, this could hurt Facebook because the reduction in privacy could cause less sharing of personal data, opinions, photos, and content, which is how Facebook generates ad revenue.

II. Google Shared Endorsements

Google Shared Endorsements example screenshotsGoogle has announced shared endorsements, in which user data and activity will be fair game to appear in ads. Much like Facebook sponsored stories, in which advertisers may use the likeness, name, or image of a user who has Liked or engaged with a brand, starting November 11, 2013 Google will display Google+ users’ profile photos and/or reviews in ads on the more than 2 million websites on the Google display network.

Users who have commented on a YouTube video, recommended a product or service, posted a Zagat review, etc. may see their name, photo, and/or comment in an ad. Fortunately, Google is being transparent about the change (unlike Facebook was last year):

To opt out of Google’s shared endorsements, click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Uncheck the “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” option and hit the blue Save button. It is currently unchecked by default, but Google will set this option to checked by default on November 11, so make sure to come back and uncheck it if you don’t want to participate. –

Users under 18 are automatically excluded, and if a Google+ post was shared only with a Circle, it will not be fair game for ads.

We all enjoy using the free services provided by Facebook and Google. Is it fair to expect these companies not to use us in return?

III. Online Mugshots online mugshot searchMugshot websites are increasingly becoming an issue. They started popping up in 2010 and now over 80 websites such as,, and, etc. do heavy advertising and SEO. They can easily be the first results that pop up in searches and image searches of people’s names. The owners of the mugshot sites argue that these images are public record and provide the service of a quick background check. But critics argue the sites border on extortion. Most states have no legislation passed to control mugshot websites, but Oregon, Georgia, and Utah require sites to remove mugshots if a person either provides proof of an expunged record or innocence and/or if they pay a fee. In many states, you can pay anywhere from $30-400 to have your mugshot removed (but at the discretion of the site admins).

Mugshots imply an arrest, not a conviction. Considering that many employers research applicants online, is this easy access to proof of arrest unfairly damaging to people’s reputations? Time and again, the Supreme Court has upheld that mugshots are in the public domain. Emily argues that nothing has changed about the legality here; the Internet is simply making mugshots more accessible instead of having to go to a sheriff’s office in person. Melanie proffers that these mugshot sites can extort innocent people and destroy their chances at success by ruining their reputations online. Also, we consider that class and socioeconomic status enter into the equation of being able to afford a removal request in most states.

Tips on Tap

1) Hugecity – Atlanta startup currently housed at The Goat Farm. Hugecity app places Facebook events on a map and shows where your friends are going. Much love to Atlanta’s startup scene.

2) Nectar app for Blackberry, Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android: This free app gives you bonus points for shopping online and sends your mobile offer reminders when you’re near your favorite store. You can spend your points at various retailers. Related: Moves activity tracker app for iPhone and Android tracks activities like run, cycle, walk etc. and now integrates with 15 other apps like Earndit.

3) PocketEarth – App publisher GeoMagik has a series of travel apps for specific cities that contain offline maps and quick area guides (complete with a brief history of sites). For iOS and available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Russian. Very useful when trying to avoid cell phone data roaming charges abroad.


  1. Facebook Gets Rid of Privacy Option And Makes All Users Searchable – ABC News, 10/11/13
  2. Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements – NYTimes, 10/11/13
  3. Mugged by a Mug Shot Online – NYTimes, 10/5/13

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Programming Note

Don't fret, we'll be back soon!
Don’t fret, we’ll be back soon!

Missing your DDP fix? Fear not, the Digital Dive Podcast will return in a couple of weeks.

Your co-hosts Emily Binder and Melanie Touchstone have taken some much needed time off for travel, tech conference season, and occupational demands. We’ve also been planning some new features and formats to make the podcast more accessible and bite-size, with a new section on the website for our featured Tips on Tap coming soon. We’ll be back mid-October 2013 will a full arsenal of topics, including iOS7, major announcements from tech giants Samsung, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, Twitter’s role in recent world events, and much more.

In the mean time, check out our archives here or on iTunes, our new Video page, and Emily Binder’s newest blog post, “Why We Hate Skyler White.”