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Your finger for your phone?

Just how far will some people go to make sure they are not separated from their smart phones? Billy MacInnes is bemused by some research that claims to have the answer

“1 in 10 Millennials Would Rather Sacrifice a Finger Than Give up Their Smartphones”, blared the headline to a press release from Tappable. “At long last,” I thought, “a silly story for the silly season.” I was beginning to lose all hope we would have any silliness this summer. With Brexit chaos and reports that the government would begin stockpiling food and medicines, along with the amazing scenes from the Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki, the real world has been far too serious (and dangerous) for this time of year.

In the middle of all this madness, it was a relief to be greeted with the news that one tenth of everyone who was born between 1981 and 1996 would willingly cut a finger off rather than forego their smartphones indefinitely. Yes, one in ten were prepared to give the finger to their smartphones, so to speak, although I can’t help feeling they may be taking all the talk of “digital transformation” a little too literally. More worrying is that no one seems to have given much thought to what would be done with all those fingers. Still, I’m sure someone has a plan to hand.

I must confess it was cheering to find, despite all the concerns expressed over the effects of smartphones on people’s physical well-being, millennials emphasising the health benefits of their iPhone/Android phone use with nearly 40% revealing their readiness to give up alcohol to retain their devices. Maybe that could form the basis of a new public health campaign: “Give up drinking or we’ll take away your smartphone.”

However, it was disappointing that almost a quarter were prepared to lose one of their five senses –  touch, smell, hearing, sight and taste – rather than give up their smartphones. This suggests to me that many millennials are already missing their sixth sense: common. Other findings were that 16% would give up travel and 15% would stop having sex to keep their smartphones. I can’t quite think of it right now, but I’m sure there’s a phrase to be made around a smartphone in the hand being worth more than something else in the bush and it could be quite apposite here. IT also suggests that, when it comes to millennials, we may have to revisit the old adage about “travel broadening the mind”.

Mrs Elli Denison, Ph.D, director of research at The Center for Generational Kinetics – “the leader in generational research and solutions, especially with Millennials and Gen Z” – told Tappable that the “younger generations are completely immersed in technology, particularly mobile devices and feel extreme dependency. There is no sign of this slowing down as younger generations are immersed in technology from birth”.

There’s no arguing that younger generations are very attached to their mobile devices, but it’s also true they can be separated from them for short(ish) periods of time. My gut feeling is that making the choice so stark – as this survey does – runs the danger of eliciting hyperbolic responses and I can’t help wondering, when it comes down to it, just how many millennials would be prepared to lose a finger. Or to give up a sense. I have a feeling that if I asked any French millennials if they were prepared to give up a sense, most of them would reply: “Non”.

This was last published in July 2018

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