Unplugged: Smartphones Dominate Our Daily Routines

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Unplugged: Smartphones Dominate Our Daily Routines

What’s the first thing you do after you wake up? The answer is probably not happily roll out of bed, stretch or rip the curtains open to let the light of a new day in.

No, no. The answer is probably that you check your phone. The majority of participants in a study by Deloitte said they looked at their phones within five minutes of waking up.

It doesn’t stop there, either, does it? You’re not alone if you find yourself checking your phone all day long. Americans glance at their phones a collective 8 billion times each day, according to the same Deloitte study.

Who’s Doing This?

Unsurprisingly, the people who check their phones the most tended to be between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the aforementioned study. Across all age groups, the average number of glances cast onto a cellphone was 46. The 18-to-24 group tallied in their check-ins at 74, while those between 25 and 34 checked an average of 50 times per day. Those between 35 and 44 looked at their phones 35 times each day.

You Probably Don’t Even Realize It, Either

Would you be able to estimate how often you check your mobile device? A British study asked young adults to estimate how often they use their smartphones. The researchers then installed an app so they could track participants’ phone usage over a set two-week period.

They found that, on average, participants used their phones two times more often than they thought they did. In this particular study, they found that the young people involved were looking at their mobile devices an average of 85 times per day, which was two times how many they thought they were stealing digital glances. The researchers did note that 55 percent of those instances were less than 30 seconds or less, indicating that it might just be a habit.

How Much Time Does It Really Take Away?

It’s interesting that, despite the majority of their phone usage coming in 30-second bursts, the young people involved in the second study were still spending an average of five hours each day looking at their devices.

Of course, this is one specific study, so your numbers may vary. Other similar data interpretations say the average American spends 3.3 hours per day on his or her phone, this is all Americans, not just the young people from study two. This equals more than twice the amount of time the average American spends eating and more than one-third of the time they spend sleeping.

When Is This Happening?

You can probably imagine when most of the mindless scrolling is taking place: when you’re doing mindless activities. So, if you’re a commuter with time to fill, you likely whip out your phone. TV show with boring commercials? Phone. A lot of people—75 percent of respondents to the third study—said they even bring their phones to the bathroom.

Of course, these aren’t the only situations where phones are likely to make an appearance. Just about any activity that includes downtime—dining out at restaurants, for example, even if you’re with someone—could provide a lull just long enough for you to check your phone.


It must seem a bit crazy that someone could spend five of his or her waking hours on a phone, when there’s so much else to see and do. However, the convenience of having a world’s worth of entertainment at arm’s length is clearly not lost on today’s society. Plus, researchers from the first Deloitte study said it makes sense we use our phones so much, since so much of our lives are on there. Even our financial transactions can be tracked via smartphone, which was one feature specifically pointed out by researchers to explain the uptick in phone usage. And current fintech trends suggest that this will only become more prevalent.

The truth is, there’s no one way to explain our love of smartphones, and there’s no clear answer as to whether or not it’s good or bad for us. Some users will toe the line between overuse and problematic overuse. However, we’re confident that most who reach the point of life-stealing cellphone usage will see it—and make a change—themselves.

Image: Susan Murtaugh, CC-BY

Anum Yoon is Paste’s Unplugged columnist and a Philly-based blogger who founded Current On Currency.