Obsessing over iPhones won’t cure imagined ills

On June 29, 2007, the first iPhone went on sale…Apple has since sold more than 217 million iPhones worldwide and sparked a commercial, cultural and — most surprising — behavioral revolution…

According to a study of medical workers at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, 76 percent said they’ve experienced “phantom vibration,” that insistent buzz from an imagined text or phone call. Scientists speculate it’s the result of random nerves firing, biochemical noise that our brains tuned out until they were reconditioned by the iPhone.

“The iPhone has changed everything about how we relate to technology, for both good and bad,” said Larry Rosen, a psychologist and professor…According to his research, almost 30 percent of people born after 1980 feel anxious if they can’t check Facebook’s website every few minutes. Others repeatedly pat their pockets to make sure their smartphones are still there.

Indulging those tiny, persistent urges brings us only a brief respite…“The relief is not pleasurable,” Rosen said. “That’s the sign of an obsession…”

The App Store’s 650,000 offerings help people massage Excel data on the go, monitor their blood sugar and entertain their kids. More subtly, the iPhone’s tremendous commercial success has made “user-centered design” a buzz phrase in business…

The latest iPhone-inspired cottage industry has nothing to do with old- timey photo filters. It’s books that examine the device’s biological and societal effects…“The great thing about the iPhone is that we carry it with us all day long,” Rosen said. “The bad part is that we carry it with us all day long…”

For every feel-good story about an autistic child lighting up at the sight of a new app, there’s a story like that of actor Alec Baldwin getting kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to quit his “Words With Friends” game.

The big question: Is the iPhone a “bicycle for the mind,” as the late Jobs said about the first Mac, or a crutch that does too much of our thinking for us and increasingly takes the place of real human connections?

Yes, the article is mostly whining about neurotic behavior, worrying about whether or not we should be whining about neurotic behavior. Which is a reasonably neurotic symptom on its own.

I believe I’m standing on firm ground when I conclude that when borderline neurotics get more and more neurotic – don’t blame the object of their fixation. If it wasn’t an iPhone it might be Reality TV. If it wasn’t Reality TV it might be extraterrestrial visitors. It might even just be worrying over the cost of paying for your shrink.

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