A digital addict? Moi? Surely not… I mean, I gave up Facebook years ago, switched off all my notifications and recently deleted WhatsApp too. How could I possibly be addicted to my phone?
That’s how a lunchtime conversation about which apps we use, and how many notifications we receive, quickly turned into a search mission over here at Reason HQ. And after seeing that researchers believe young adults spend a third of their waking lives on their phones, an experiment was born.
How might we, in the space of a week, understand our digital habits and (dis)prove these lingering hypotheses:
Notifications are bad.
Starting hypothesis: those who had notifications switched off would use their phones less.
Young people are the worst. Like, literally.
Starting hypothesis: our Gen Z colleagues would spend more time on their phones than us old, wise hands.
We got everyone to download Moment to track their usage for a week. The only caveat was that no one should cheat and change their behaviours to make themselves look good, and everyone stuck to that (except maybe for someone sneakily deleting Tinder, but we forgave her pretty quickly).
Here’s what we found out after a week.
Our worst offender clocked 100,740 minutes of screen time a year. That’s 70 days a year, excluding sleep time. Enough to circumnavigate the globe 6 times in a hot air balloon or cycle across the USA 10 times!
According to recent research, the average Brit checks their phone 10,000 times a year. Our average was nearly double that, clocking in at 19,032 times a year. Our worse individual user was, unsurprisingly, a Gen Z colleague with a whooping 26,280 phone checks a year.
We couldn’t find a clear correlation between turning on notifications and using your phone more. In fact, one of our colleagues who had notifications switched on for the most apps spent the least amount of time on his phone . Another checked her phone very rarely but ended up with a higher than expected screen time.
What about our hypotheses? Well, we weren’t entirely right on either (and we’re ok with that).
Notifications are distracting for sure, but they don’t systematically lead to more time spent using our phones. That could however be down to the fact that everyone was also on their computers at work, and could have checked their apps on their connected laptops.
As for Gen Zers, well they were more on their phones than average, but they definitely weren’t our worst offenders! In case you’re wondering, Instagram was the biggest draw for the younger Reasonites, while email and Slack kept our older colleagues busy.
What was interesting during the experiment was the overwhelming sense of guilt about spending too much time on our phones. Has anyone changed their behaviours when the results came in? Well not really, as we all saw the value in the services we use on our phones.
At Reason, we build experiments into everything we do, from how we operate internally to how we help clients launch digital platforms into the market.