It’s time I admitted to myself that I’m addicted to my iPhone

The struggle is real, and I’m sure I’m not alone

addiction apps columnist Facebook FoMO iPhone joseph spencer technology

It’s the first thing I touch in the morning and the last thing I see at night. 

The snooze button may be reflex, whether phone or alarm radio, but when I do get my eyes open my hand always reaches for the same thing. It’s always within an arm’s reach. I get nervous if it’s in the next room. I’ve already checked it once in the time since I started writing this paragraph. I’m not sure what I’m expecting from it. I’m not anxiously waiting for a reply to anything, nor is there some viciously exciting unfolding news or sport to check. It’s not conscious, it just happens. It’s there, constantly, just 6 or so inches to the right.

There’s a brief parting of ways each morning when I head to the shower. Water endangers my friend, and I do everything to keep him from harm’s way. We’re reunited for the trip to hall for breakfast, and from that point on we are pretty much inseparable. I long ago ceased to bother with having a noise or vibration, I check it regularly enough not to need to bother fellow library workers. It’ll get checked several times an hour in the library. I once got drunk, overslept, and missed all the excitement of the killing of Bin Laden. But other than another global news event I’m not really sure what I’m afraid of missing. I certainly don’t consider myself to have any worse ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ than your average Cantab.

I don’t have a driving license so luckily for road users this isn’t going to be a problem for me.

During exam term last year I took to locking it in a locker on the other side of College, where it could cause no distraction. It sat alone and undisturbed for hours at a time. If I could have put it in a Swiss vault for the course of my degree then I would like to think I would have. But subconsciously I couldn’t have it more than a short walk away. After a few hours of productive work, it would call to me like the One Ring to Bilbo. I would convince myself that a short walk or a cup of tea was what I needed to keep up my stamina into the latter part of the day. Lies. My true purpose, as I well knew, was a visit to my old friend.


Bam. A Snapchat from a person I have only occasionally chatted to in the past has just come through. I paused writing and looked at it immediately, of course.


It didn’t used to be like this. I remember a time while boarding in Sixth Form when I couldn’t be bothered with the weight of a phone in my pocket during the school day. I couldn’t contact anyone during the day anyway, and the grounds of the school were small. I often left it in my room. But that was in the days before my iPhone. With the iPhone, the apps are all just a swipe or two from each other. If nothing’s happening in the world I can check Twitter, or Facebook Messenger, or catch up on Snapchat stories. Tinder is an exception – it’s there, but I eye it with suspicion. I’m not sure why, but I bet Freud would have something to say about that.

An app for all seasons

Have I embraced that thing I always feared I would, the peculiar habits of our generation? I began to wonder if my iPhone had something of a life of its own. Was I Ginny Weasley to a sort of Riddle’s diary, both loving and being controlled by  the device. I looked back to the 1980s and 90s as a golden age before these accursed devices became necessary. I read with amazement and not a little envy of Stephen Fry’s description in The Fry Chronicles of how Cambridge students used to actually arrange events with each other using the internal postage service. I kid you not. You couldn’t provide a warning if you were going to be late to a social engagement, you had to just sort of make it on time. Incredible.

In a lame attempt to fight the addiction I began to wear a watch again for the first time in years, convinced it would reduce the need to look at the time on my phone. I was wrong, I still check the time there. The watch is just a piece of heavy jewellery. Over the holidays, I began to try leaving it alone by itself for long periods. I was testing myself, viewing each parting as a little challenge. Very little of the endless stream of information we receive through our phones is, after all, truly that urgent. Success, I can report, has been mixed.

There’re about thirty of these tabs open, many of them unread and on spurious topics.

There is a boy in the year below me in College. Nice chap, perfectly amicable to speak to, nothing out of the ordinary as far as you can see. He’s a boatie, but no-one’s perfect. At the beginning of the year, he deleted his Facebook. His phone is a small, early noughties type thing. No internet, no apps, no Whatsapp, and it looks like hell to type on. The fact that his decision was well-known and a matter of comment suggests that I am not alone. I regularly walk past him in the library and think of how envious I am. I think of the freedom he has, liberated from the tyranny of social media, endless Safari tabs and blinking apps. The lucky thing probably even gets his news the old-fashioned way, through physical 3D newspapers or watching the Ten O’Clock News.

I can’t yet bring myself to join him in his stand against this infernal smartphone technology, but one day I really hope to.