According to Martin Lindstrom, you are in love . . . with your phone. That’s what he argues in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled, “You Love Your iPhone. Literally.” Apologies to those who have fallen for their Droids and EVOs.
Lindstrom, an author and cultural commentator, asks if we should “really characterize the intense consumer devotion to the iPhone as an addiction?” To answer this question, he set out to investigate what happens to the brains of iPhone aficionados when they see or hear an iPhone. Here’s how Lindstrom describes his research:
Earlier this year, I carried out an fMRI experiment to find out whether iPhones were really, truly addictive, no less so than alcohol, cocaine, shopping or video games. In conjunction with the San Diego-based firm MindSign Neuromarketing, I enlisted eight men and eight women between the ages of 18 and 25. Our 16 subjects were exposed separately to audio and to video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone. . . .
But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.
In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.
They loved their phones. Their brains reacted to their phones as it might react to the people they love. Yikes!
Lindstrom challenges us to reconsider how we’re living when it comes to our gadgets and our loved ones:
As we embrace new technology that does everything but kiss us on the mouth, we risk cutting ourselves off from human interaction. For many, the iPhone has become a best friend, partner, lifeline, companion and, yes, even a Valentine. The man or woman we love most may be seated across from us in a romantic Paris bistro, but his or her 8GB, 16GB or 32GB rival lies in wait inside our pockets and purses.
My best advice? Shut off your iPhone, order some good Champagne and find love and compassion the old-fashioned way.
Lindstrom has a point. In my work with Foundations for Laity Renewal, I’m often involved in retreats at Laity Lodge, an idyllic retreat center in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio. Part of what makes Laity Lodge so wonderful is the isolated, stunningly beautiful location alongside the Frio River. But Laity Lodge offers another gift as well, something our guests are sometimes reticent to accept. We have no cell service. If you’re willing to hike to the too of a local hill, you can get a signal. But it doesn’t invade the main campus of Laity Lodge. Thus, people are given the opportunity to let go of their beloved cell phones for a few days.
I mentioned that some of our guests are at first stunned to learn that they cannot use their cell phones. They seem to go through a sort of withdrawal that reminds me of addicts getting free. But, Lindstrom might suggest that its more like they are being separated from a loved one. At any rate, some people feel considerable stress when this first happens. But, as they participate in the retreat, as they invest more in face-to-face interactions with real people, they discover a kind of joy and freedom from their cell-phone infatuation.
Are you too much in love with your iPhone? Would you like a break so you can reinvest in what – and whom – really matters? Yes, you could order some good Champagne. Or you could join us at Laity Lodge!