THEY were supposed to provide freedom, independence, control and fun. But instead it seems that mobile phones have enslaved us.
We are emotionally dependent on them for our identity and feelings of self-worth and incapable even of going to the shops without whipping them out at regular intervals to call family and friends for advice.
A major new piece of research has revealed that nearly half of young adults have very strong feeling about their handset, describing its loss as similar to a bereavement.
Many younger users regard their phones as an extension of their physical being that they rely upon to forge and maintain their self-image.
Even older, more sceptical, users rely on their phone for emotional fulfilment, according to the findings, which show that nearly half of all users rely on their phone to lift their mood.
Three years ago 58 per cent of households had at least one. Now it is closer to 75 per cent. While the growth has occurred across society, it has been fastest among poorer people, thanks to the advent of pay-as-you-go tariffs.
The research, based on a survey of 1,000 people, 50 in-depth interviews and three focus groups, was conducted jointly by the Henley Management Centre and the research company Teleconomy. It found that more than a quarter of all users regard their phone as “essential”, with a significant minority reporting that they feel strangely detached from life if they do not have it with them or are made to turn it off.
Many say that their choice of phone is hugely important to their sense of identity, as it projects their self-image.
People are most likely to make calls on their mobile phones when on their way to a meeting (22 per cent) or travelling (19 per cent), and most likely to use text-messages when shopping (34 per cent), in school or at college (33 per cent), or on the way to a meeting or activity (33 per cent).
Fifteen per cent of users say they that use their phone only for texting. Many regard texting as important because it enables them to edit and filter what they send out and gives people time to reflect on their answer before responding.
Texting is still regarded as predominantly an activity for younger users, however, with many teenagers saying that it is seriously “uncool” to be texted by their parents.
Younger users are more likely to regard their phone as part of the fabric of their lifestyle, providing vital order to their lives. Older users regard the phone more as a tool to enable an easier lifestyle.
Michael Hulme, director of applied research at the Henley Management Centre and chairman of Teleconomy, said that at a time when the spread of globalism was leaving individuals feeling disempowered, the mobile phone helped to hand them back a degree of control over their lives.
The downside, however, was that it also gave others some control over them. “Quite often the first thing people say to you on the mobile is, ‘Where are you?’— it is a form of control.”