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Does your smartphone actually make you happy?

Smartphones have transformed the way people live in a remarkably short amount of time. According to the Pew Research Center, from 2011 to 2017 smartphone usage swelled from 35% to 77% among adults. Today, nearly half of smartphone users around the world spend 5 or more hours a day on their device. According to one study, when we account for multi-screen usage, adults spend more than 12 hours a day consuming media, with nearly 6 hours of that time on a device, and 4 hours with a television.

It’s clear that we are in love with our smartphones.  In fact, nearly half of users say their phone is something they “couldn’t live without” despite the fact that all this screen time isn’t actually making us happy.


In the 10 years since the introduction of the iPhone, studies are increasingly showing that our smartphone use makes us less happy, not more. The most comprehensive study to date, among young people in America, showed a static or slight rise in their reported sense of well-being from 1991 to 2011. However, since 2012, adolescents began reporting a steady decline in most indications of happiness, including overall life satisfaction, personal safety, level of fun, satisfaction in relationships with friends and family, personal happiness, and self-esteem. This decline in happiness and well-being was significantly affected by smartphone use.

It’s also worth remembering that it’s not just screen time overall, but how we use our devices that can positively or negatively impact our happiness. According to a study by HumaneTech, the “unhappiest apps” are:

  • Dating apps like Grindr and Tinder, with 77% and 56% of users reporting unhappiness on the app.
  • Casual games like Candy Crush, Subway Surf, and Clash Royale, with 42-71% of unhappy users
  • Social media apps including Facebook, Tweetbot, Weibo, Instagram, and Snapchat, all of which have more than 50% of their users reporting being unhappy

Bizarrely, as that same study reveals, we tend to spend the most time on the unhappy apps.

Change Relationship with Screens 2
Change Your Relationships with Screens


We should not infer a causal relationship between these usage patterns and happiness data. For example, it makes sense that a person who is lonely and unhappy may spend more time on a dating app; this data shows a correlation, not causation. But it’s abundantly clear that we need to rethink our relationship with screens, adjusting not just overall screen time, but taking control of how we use our devices to improve our happiness and well-being.

  • Create stopping cues. Apps can be so addictive and time-consuming because they go on and on without end. It’s important to create your own stopping cues to deliberately manage and limit screen time. Making simple rules like “no screens at the dinner table” or “no screens in the bedroom” promote happiness by allowing us to focus on the present moment, the experience we are having, and the people around us.
  • Use “happy” apps. Apps that promote mindfulness, productivity, and focus make us happier. Audiobooks, podcasts, and music apps are also highly correlated with happiness. Spend your screen time on the apps that make you feel healthier, happier, and more attuned to your own life.
  • There’s an app for that. Of course, there are apps that will help regulate your relationship with screens. There are apps that will limit overall screen time, lock your phone and only allow certain high-priority notifications, track and report your screen usage, block certain apps during work hours, etc. If you have a hard time managing your phone usage, these apps can help you.
  • Focus on real-world experiences. Remind yourself to put the phone away and live your life, rather than capturing it. You could be one of the people pointing a camera at this guy, or one of the people dancing with him. Choose to dance.


Screens are an important part of our work and home life now.  They keep track of our schedules and let us communicate with people across vast distances easily.  No matter how important they are to our day-to-day lives, our happiness is important.  Happier people are more productive and build better relationships with others.  Build better habits and be happy.

For more information on how to help you or your employees have a healthy relationship with your devices, call 02 8073 4416 or Email us.

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