When you are at the restaurant with someone else, significant or otherwise, are you constantly looking at your phone? At the dinner table at home, are you always on the phone or checking for messages or Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (sorry X)?

Do you leave your mobile in your pocket at a restaurant, or do you put it on the table, just in case it rings, and you miss something? Almost for sure you are thinking, that’s not me.

Really? Be honest with yourself.

Nobody can deny how useful our smartphones are, but can it be said that they are becoming an addiction for many people? Sadly, I believe the answer is yes.

What is a digital junky and what are the dangers?

A digital junky is someone who is addicted to digital devices and spends an excessive amount of time using them. Digital addiction is characterised by compulsive behaviour, loss of control, and negative consequences. Examples of digital addiction include spending hours on social media or checking emails etc. According to a recent study, 50 percent of teenagers feel addicted to their mobile devices, and 27 percent of them feel addicted to social media. Furthermore, the study found that 72 percent of teens check their phones at least once an hour. Once every ten minutes might be nearer the truth.

To some extent we are all guilty, our smartphones are incredibly useful and can handle everything from email to the internet. The banks love us to use their apps rather than bothering their staff, and there is no denying you can do so much that used to require a visit to the bank or an MB machine. They can take amazing photos or videos, what can’t they do?

Is it a health danger?

Digital addiction can lead to several physical and mental health risks. The excessive use of digital devices can cause eye strain, headaches, and insomnia. Furthermore, it can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. A study by the American Psychological Association found that the use of digital devices before bedtime can lead to poor sleep quality and increased stress levels. Moreover, digital addiction can negatively impact relationships, academic performance, and work productivity. A study by the University of Maryland found that students who multitasked on digital devices had lower academic performance than those who did not. Anything sound familiar?

What can we do about it?

As is so often the case, the Americans have done extensive research into how to treat this addiction, if you want to. To overcome digital addiction, individuals could set limits on their screen time. They can do this by using apps that track their usage or by setting specific times to use their devices. Most smartphones will now tell you how much you have used the phone. Engaging in physical activities and hobbies can also help individuals break their addiction. Go swimming, you can’t use your phone in the water.

That’s the theory

Digital addiction is a growing problem in today's society. Digital junkies spend an excessive amount of time using digital devices, which can lead to several physical and mental health risks. The problem is that every year these devices get cleverer, more powerful and add new features.

Perhaps you’ve heard that the smartphone in your pocket is powerful enough to have put a man on the moon in 1969. It’s one of those facts you read online that seems unbelievable, but in fact, a modern smartphone is dramatically more powerful than the guidance computer NASA used for the famous Apollo 11 mission.

Ever faster, technology advances at warp speed, especially in our hyper-connected digital world, we are continuously reminded by the annual release of increasingly impressive smartphones one-upping previous models with new features, more speed, and greater capabilities and a higher price. New apps arrive nearly every day, some are useful, and some are quite disturbing.

Your phone is 5,000 times more powerful than an 80’s supercomputer

Even those ’80s supercomputers, seen today as dusty monoliths, were already light-years ahead of the one that helped put Neil Armstrong on the moon more than half a century ago. By 1985, the supercomputer CRAY-2 had become the fastest and most powerful machine ever built.

The CRAY-2 supercomputer was designed for the United States Department of Defence and Energy, primarily to be used for nuclear weapons research and oceanographic development. Compare that to today’s smartphones, which are about 5,000 times faster than the CRAY-2

No wonder we are addicted

The power in your pocket is addictive, no wonder. There is almost nothing it can’t do, better and faster than a massive supercomputer fifty years ago let alone last year’s model of your phone. Just compare the size of the Cray-2 in the photo with your smartphone.

Your smartphone can do almost everything, maybe it will get even more powerful and controlling. It tells various apps where you are and probably what you are doing. What the app maker does with that information we don’t know, they won’t tell us.

Make sure you take control. Don’t let it control you.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman