In extreme cases, the pressure to keep in touch can become extreme, such that the most stressed users actually perceive incoming alerts (via, for example, phone vibrations) that never really happen.
"Now, certainly it's good to keep connected," Balding acknowledged. "But everyone needs a break. Some time on your own. Otherwise there's a risk that the stress and tension that builds up from keeping engaged can end up having a negative impact on relationships."
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, said that while the observations struck her as "reasonable," more work is needed to establish a true cause-and-effect.
"It could be that people who are already more stressed out and neurotic are more likely to check their phones compulsively in the first place, that people who have high stress levels to begin with are the ones who need to have their phones on all the time," she said. "So we need to see what's actually causing what."
"Of course, there's lots of research that shows that truly living in the moment makes people happier," Lyubomirsky noted. "And clearly we're less likely to savor the moment if we're checking the phone. But at the same time, it's not always a bad thing. It saves me time. It makes being in touch so much easier, and enables multitasking. There are plenty of people who can gain pleasure out of sending a thank-you email to someone or surfing the Web for information. So it's how you use the phone that matters, not the phone itself."
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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