SmartPhones, Social Media Access & Anxiety

Smartphones, Social Media Access & Anxiety

Bernard Harris, MSc & Niall MacGiolla Bhuí, PhD.

Dissertation Doctor’s Clinic (2015)

Smartphones are now considered a necessary and integrative part of their users daily routines becoming a main conduit for connecting with friends, family, gathering information, purchasing and gaming (Lee, Chang, 2013). In 2013 a study performed by IPSOS, ‘At Home and on the go with the millenials’, asked a group of 18-31 yr. olds what would be easier to live without for 2 days? The study found that the young “highly connected, plugged in and mobile generation” would rather not be without their mobile phones for two days and it appears that millennials, the generation where a person reached young adulthood around the year 2000, would rather go without access to their car or home than give up their phones.

With smartphone owners in Ireland spending on average 3.3 hours per day on their phones, this area of research has become more important to better understand how human behaviour and psyche might be affected by this sustained usage. These usage figures are supported by a report from Nielsen Research in 2014 which found that monthly mobile hour use in the UK is 41 hrs and of this time 29% is spent on social media activities. Thus, there is cause for concern.

Ireland has not been left behind in this technological shift. According to Zenith Optimedia (2013) smartphone penetration has risen to 57% of the Irish population and Ireland is forecasted to have the highest growth in Western Europe in new media technology (smartphone and tablet) adoption from 11th to 3rd by 2015 due to the growth forecast in number of tablets and smartphones per person in the population. This is supported by an earlier report by Accenture in 2013 which found that mobile devices such as phones, netbooks and tablets are used by over 77 % of Irish internet users.

Smartphone users appreciate the ubiquitous and continuous access to their social networks. However, with the pervasiveness of smartphones and the time being spent used interacting with various activities, one wonders how this usage is impacting the psychological states of it users? Are people more or less satisfied with their cyber interactions? What are the implications of this shift in technology use in such a short timeframe?

Over three blogs, we intend to present a discussion on this subject based on a Masters Degree status empirical study conducted in Dublin earlier this year. Findings reveal access to and use of various social media platforms is considered a key part of daily life for respondents with demonstrable anxiety levels displayed if non access occurs or is forced to occur and we make several inferences from the study that have implications for policy makers, psychology/psychotherapy and addictions personnel and, indeed, parents and partners.


Harwood, J., Dooley, J., Scott, A., Joiner, R., (2014). Constantly connected – The effects of smart-devices on mental health. Computers in Human Behavior. 34 (), pp.267–272

Lee, Y., Chang, C., Lin, Y., Cheng, Z., (2014). The dark side of smartphone usage: Psychological traits, compulsive behavior and technostress. PLoS ONE. 31 (), pp.373–383

Zenith Optimedia (2013). New Media Forecasts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.zenithoptimedia.com/zenithoptimedia-publishes-new-media-forecasts/. [Last Accessed 2/10/2015].