Just in case you didn’t know, you are probably using your smartphone way too much, and you now can measure your level of addiction.
Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have developed an app called ‘Menthal’ to keep track of our daily smartphone use, with the aim of finding out whether there might be addictive tendencies involved.
“It works like digital scale, you receive a so-called ‘M-score’, which shows you how much you’re actually using your smartphone. And then you can see which apps you’re using most, how often you’re calling people, how often you are using the internet,” says psychologist Christian Montag, head of the smartphone research project.
In a pilot study, the researchers used Menthal to examine the phone behaviour of 50 students over a six-week period. A quarter of them used their phones more than two hours a day. On average, participants activated their phones more than 80 times a day – that’s every 12 minutes on average.
“We really believe that there is a mechanism of addiction, we compare this to gambling. Even if you can’t win any money, there’s always this feeling of excitment when you switch on your device,” said Christian Montag.
The app was developed as part of a larger research project looking at the use of mobile phones. Previous studies relying on people to document their own mobile phone use has proved unreliable.
However, researchers say there is no risk of personal data violation.
“We see when an app is being activated and when it’s being switched off. It’s important to note what we don’t see – we don’t look into the apps or what people are doing with them. We don’t look at text messages, content, videos or audio. This is absolutely impossible,” says computer science professor Alexander Markowetz.
The research is part of a broader initiative looking at bringing computer science into the psychological sciences, in a new research area called “psychoinformatics”. One potential application might be using cellphone data to measure the severity and progress of depression.