If you’re reading this from a smartphone, we have some potentially bad news for you: Your phone use might be turning you into an inadvertent narcissist, and new research proves we are engaging more and more in what researchers call “problematic smartphone use,” leading to a rise in narcissistic behavior.
Look, we get it: It honestly sometimes feels impossible to go too long without checking your notifications. With the constant beep, ping, and ding from your devices, for many of us, the noise becomes increasingly harder to ignore, even to the point of having a full-blown smartphone addiction. Potentially more alarming? A study released in early 2017 confirmed that Americans are now spending five hours per day on their mobile devices.
That’s a whole lot of screen time, to be sure, but is it really breeding a society of narcissists? Are our seemingly harmless Snapchat selfies and status updates not so harmless after all?
According to new research conducted at the University of Derby in the U.K., there’s a pretty concrete link between smartphone use and narcissism, and it seems Millennials are the most prone to the “detrimental consequences” of excessive smartphone time.
The study analyzed 871 smartphone users (average age: 25) and the results showed “signiﬁcant relationships between problematic smartphone use” and anxiety and emotional stability directly correlated to the amount of time spent on smartphones and age.
Millennials are often unfairly labeled as being part of “Generation Me,” due to our supposed need to be the center of attention at all times. And it makes sense why smartphone use could feed the beast of narcissism without us even realizing it’s happening — after all, who doesn’t admit to that teeny, tiny little thrill when you hear a notification come in on your phone? But is that really such a bad thing, and is it really making us hopelessly self-centered in the process?
The researchers, in conjunction with several studies done in years past, found that “60% of users cannot go an hour without checking their smartphones.” As for what counts as a true addiction, it seems “13.3% of the participants were classiﬁed as addicted to their smartphones and that higher narcissism scores and neuroticism levels were associated with addiction.” And it kinda goes without saying but narcissists are more prone to uploading “attractive and self-promoting photos” of themselves. (Case in point: Those adorable bunny filter selfies we just can’t get enough of.)
And the study points out the ever troubling “check habit” we’ve all seemingly developed, which feeds into the “immediacy of the reward factors when checking a smartphone,” aka, how good it feels when we glance down and see a message, Like, or new comment waiting for us.
Even more troubling seems to be the link between screen time and disorders including anxiety, attention deficit disorder/hyperactive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. The research determined that “people who experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and sadness are more likely to develop problematic smartphone use behavior.” This “smartphone dependency” in turn “may lead to increased anxiety when the device is absent,” creating a seemingly endless cycle that becomes so hard to break.
And if you’re wondering which gender is more prone to the insidious smartphone addiction, we’ve got bad news for you, ladies. The study points out that “being female was signiﬁcantly associated with addictive use of social media.” Yikes.
All this scary research aside, how do you know if your iPhone is making you actually self-obsessed instead of merely selfie-obsessed? Apparently, you should ask yourself if you’d agree with these key statements, including: “I am preoccupied with my smartphone,” “I use my smartphone to escape or relieve a negative mood,” and “I have jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational career opportunity because of my smartphone use.”
Though it’s still worth pointing out that not everybody who uses their smartphone all the time is a raging narcissist, and you can safely use social media without experiencing these detrimental effects to your mental health and well-being. If you feel like you’re having difficulty pulling yourself away from your phone or are concerned about developing an addiction to your smartphone, you should certainly speak with a therapist or counselor. They can help you with strategies to unplug and give your brain a breather. Inner peace is no doubt worth more than constantly worrying about whether your brunch photo will receive of Likes, right?