Your Life Is Fully Mobile

We walk, talk and sleep with our phones. But are we more—or less—connected?

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Just as remarkable as the power of mobility, over everything from love to learning to global development, is how fast it all happened. It is hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones. Not the knife or match, the pen or page. Only money comes close—always at hand, don’t leave home without it. But most of us don’t take a wallet to bed with us, don’t reach for it and check it every few minutes, and however useful money is in pursuit of fame, romance, revolution, it is inert compared with a smart phone—which can replace your wallet now anyway.

TIME

Whatever people thought the first time they held a portable phone the size of a shoe in their hands, it was nothing like where we are now, accustomed to having all knowledge at our fingertips. A typical smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed a man on the moon. In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water; for millions, this is the first phone they’ve ever had. In the U.S., close to 9 in 10 adults carry a mobile, leaving its marks on body, mind, spirit. There’s a smart-phone gait: the slow sidewalk weave that comes from being lost in conversation rather than looking where you’re going. Thumbs are stronger, attention shorter, temptation everywhere: we can always be, mentally, digitally, someplace other than where we are.

So how do we feel about this? To better understand attitudes about mass mobility, Time, in cooperation with Qualcomm, launched the Time Mobility Poll, a survey of close to 5,000 people of all age groups and income levels in eight countries: the U.S., the U.K., China, India, South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil. Even the best survey can be only a snapshot in time, but this is a crisp and textured one—­revealing a lot about both where we are now and where the mobile wave is taking us next.

A tool our parents could not have imagined has become a lifeline we can’t do without. Not for a day—in most cases not even for an hour. In Time’s poll, 1 in 4 people check it every 30 minutes, 1 in 5 every 10 minutes. A third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious. It is a form of sustenance, that constant feed of news and notes and nonsense, to the point that twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose. Three-quarters of 25-to-29-year-olds sleep with their phones.

If Americans have developed surprisingly intimate relationships with their gadgets, they are still modest compared with people in other ­countries. The Time Mobility Poll found that 1 in 5 Americans has asked someone on a date by text, compared with three times as many Brazilians and four times as many Chinese. Fewer than 1 in 10 married U.S. respondents admitted to using texting to coordinate adultery, vs. one-third of Indians and a majority of Chinese. It may be shocking that nearly a quarter of all U.S. respondents—­including a majority of 18-to-35-year-old men—have sent a sexually provocative picture to a partner or loved one. But that trails South Africans’ 45% and Indians’ 54%. Brazilians are especially exuberant, with 64% baring and ­sharing all.

Read more about how mobile technology is changing your life here.

In most respects, overseas mobile users value their devices the same way Americans do but with a few revealing exceptions. Americans are grateful for the connection and convenience their phones provide, helping them search for a lower price, navigate a strange city, expand a customer base or track their health and finances, their family and friends. But in some ways Americans are still ambivalent; more than 9 in 10 Brazilians and Indians agreed that being constantly connected is mostly a good thing. America’s 76% was actually the lowest score.

(PHOTOS: Behind the Cover: Instagram Photos of the Wireless Issue)

Carve up the U.S. population into the general public vs. high-income, highly educated elites and some contrasts come into focus. Elites are more likely to say that they work longer hours and have less time to think but also that mobile has made them more efficient and productive, able to manage more, be away from the office, stay informed about the news and be a better parent. Four in 10 Americans think mobility has helped them achieve a better work-life balance, vs. three-quarters or more of Indians, Indonesians, Chinese and South Africans.

Like any romance moving from infatuation to commitment, the connection between people and their mobile devices reflects what they brought into the relationship in the first place. In countries where connection and convenience were difficult, these mobiles offer a kind of time travel, delivering in the push of a button or touch of a screen the kind of progress other countries built over decades. Which makes you wonder: Just how much smaller and smarter and faster and better might our devices be a decade from now? And how much about our lives and work and relationships is left to be completely transformed as a result?

Read the rest of the wireless issue here.

See the findings of the TIME Mobility Poll here.

See the full poll results here.

27 comments
MalcomBlackhawk
MalcomBlackhawk

For all of the people who think that 'microwave' radiation from cell phones can give you brain cancer, I have two recommendations for you. One: stop listening to the radio in the car. Two: stick your hand in a microwave and tell me that's what talking on your cell phone feels like.

Cell phones work off of radio waves, which are completely harmless to humans. No doubt they are passing through your body right now. Feel any extra limbs growing yet? No? Exactly.

On microwave radiation, ever noticed how the plate is really hot when you take it out of the microwave? That's because microwave radiation heats up the molecules in the plate, and I seriously doubt your head feels that hot every time you answer a call.

Sincerely, a junior in high school who did his research :)

NoCellPhones
NoCellPhones

I'll never own a cell phone even if you offered me $100,000 to carry one.--Seriously.  People no longer relate to each other, but instead, focus on a machine.  They don't look at each other.  They don't talk to each other.  It's ridiculous.  I feel sorry for babies of the addicted cell phone user. 

A friend of mine told me the story of a couple he visited to do some work in their home.  Instead of talking to each other as they each sat in the livingroom, they texted each other. 

I also don't think people can stand to drive without constantly talking on their phone.  They get panicky if they can't be talking while driving even when the conversation is trivial.

Finally, I am forced to hear cell phone conversations in the grocery store, at my work place, as I walk around my block, and so forth.  I don't want to hear people's personal conversations.  I don't.  Keep your private conversations to yourself please.

Lisa Rene Anderson
Lisa Rene Anderson

See: www.EMRActionDay.org for hundreds of scientific studies that prove exposure to wireless

radiation and Wi-Fi causes DNA breakage, cancer and other diseases, endocrine system imbalance, immune disfunction, cell death, depression, impaired

fertility, sleep and memory disruption, etc.  The

cumulative radiation from the grid of cell towers, “smart" utility

meters and wireless/Wi-Fi devices that is proliferating in every corner of our

world is extremely harmful to biological beings. These frequencies are measured

to be trillions of times higher than that of the human brain and the Earth’s

own natural healing resonance.

InjuredByTechnology
InjuredByTechnology

Many people are ill from technology! Here in America the facts are being covered-up and junk science used to keep people confused. In Canada they are starting to recognize the dangers: http://whatsyourtech.ca/2012/0... As a person who was made ill by microwave radiation from "smart" meters I'll warn you that you do NOT want to join those who's health has been taken by technology. Get rid of your wireless toys NOW because once you cross the line into electrical sensitivity your live will become a living hell!

matierney
matierney

As someone who suffers from electro-sensitivity

as a result of too much exposure to wireless technology on my job, I wish that

your attempt to report on the “dark side” of wireless technology had included

coverage on its negative health effects. At least 5% of the world's population suffers

from these effects ~ whether they know it or now ~ including headaches, sleep

disturbances, concentration problems, cardiac irregularities, among many other

symptoms.  I will look forward to more

balanced reporting from Time in the

future.   Mary Anne Tierney, RN, MPH,

Asheville, NC

coinone
coinone

Seriously, I really should change a cell phone.

ppjeffy
ppjeffy

Everyone carries around a super computer in their pocket with all the worlds information, music, movies, maps, satellite images..you name it.  I carry all my personal documents with me at all times and search by voice.  Many people can run their business entirely from their smartphone.  I don't know about you, but I am really excited for what the future brings.

Jfante1452
Jfante1452

I think cellphones cause too many problems. Too many people use their phones in restaurants, disturbing others, talk while driving oblivious to cars behind them, and hold private conversations in public, which I'm not interested in hearing. I think it's an issue when people answer their phones while they're in the middle of a conversation with someone else or have to check their phone constantly to see who's called. Here's a couple of ideas: Don't disturb other people and wait until you're alone before making that call. And for god sakes turn your phone off when you go on vacation.

Jimmy Verner
Jimmy Verner

Well I sleep with my phone, too, but only to use it as a clock.

Sara Rose
Sara Rose

I enjoy not owning a cell phone. It's the 2012 version of living on a desert isle, palm tree, Mai-Tai and all.

zaglossus
zaglossus

Helpful - yes. But not a radical change in lifestyle. We got by before them and life wasn't terribly unsatisfactory.

zza371creek
zza371creek

It has changed the world. Just look around and try to find a pay phone now.  And people think it is odd when you say you don't have a cell phone. But i think this is just part of the growing trend of electronics playing a bigger and bigger role in our life. From our cars to computer to the net. 

Not that long ago you could get around in life without having to deal with a computer. Now it is impossible. That is how much it has changed our life and will keep changing it.

 

JeramieH3
JeramieH3

"electro-sensitivity"... got some peer-reviewed published data on this?

Adnan7631
Adnan7631

Electro-sensitivity is not excepted science at this time, so Time should not have to be responsible for reporting it. Besides, if you DO suffer from it, WHY ARE YOU ON THE INTERNET?

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

I agree with all you say with the exception of blaming the problems on the cellphone.   It's rude, oblivious people who are the problem, not the cellphone.  A blanket rule for turning off the phone isn't necessary for courteous, civilized people and will fall on the deaf ears of the oafs.

FalKirk
FalKirk

"And for god sakes turn your phone off when you go on vacation."

Tell you what, Jfante1452. I'll live my life and you live yours. Deal?

Raj
Raj

That is awesome. Sometimes, I do understand the burden aspect of it --- always staying in contact with e-mail, texts, etc. Much respect to you.

cyberseniors
cyberseniors

We did get by, but how long is it before these gadgets are an absolute requirement for the average job?  Things are rapidly changing with the technology, and you can probably say we're still in the very early stages of a "new" way of life.  20 years from now it's hard to guess if the technology will be "helpful" or "absolutely necessary".

Maybe in the future, not owning a cellphone (or whatever it's new incarnation will be), will actually be a luxury because one can afford to not need it for survival.  These are wild thoughts, but it's hard to predict where this is leading us.

Are we leading technology, or is it leading us?

Only time will tell!

Kittie J. Becker
Kittie J. Becker

Not that long ago you could get around in life without having to deal with a computer. Now it is impossible. That is how much it has changed our life and will keep changing it. ..Millionaire4Project.blogspot.com

Michelle Moody
Michelle Moody

Well I sleep with my phone, too, but only to use it as a clock...KingofProfits.blogspot.com