Growing Unease Over Time Spent on Smartphones

06/30/22 08:42AM EDT

Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

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Nearly 6 in 10 American adults who use smartphones say that they use theirs too much. This is up nearly 20 percentage points since 2015 and has increased markedly among all age groups. (Gallup)

NH: You aren't alone if you think you use your phone too much.

According to a new Gallup poll, 58% of smartphone users say they spend too much time on their phones. That's a rise of +19 percentage points since 2015.

Growing Unease Over Time Spent on Smartphones - June29

The share of Americans who think they use their phone too often increases as age decreases.

While only 30% of those aged 65+ share worry about their smartphone addiction, 74% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 81% of 18- to 29-year-olds do the same. Worry among all age groups has risen since 2015. But worry among the young has risen the most: +26 pp for age 30 to 49, versus +21 pp for age 65+.

We anticipated long ago that a "tech-lash" was brewing against Silicon Valley. (See "Tech-Lash Batters Silicon Valley.”)

And indeed, these companies are increasingly being accused of making their products addictive, with harmful consequences. (See “Teen Social Media Use Linked with Poor Mental Health.”) This poll is just another example of Americans' unease with the proliferation of technology into their everyday lives. 

Of course, this is bad news for tech firms whose valuations depend on keeping users ever-more engaged. And it is especially bad news for companies pinning their futures on the metaverse.

If people are already wary of the time spent on their cellphones, I doubt most will be thrilled by an invitation to move their whole lives into a virtual setting. (See "Do People Even Want the Metaverse?") 

Don't believe me? Just look at this recent poll by Zipline: 85% of Gen Zers feel "indifferent" about brands offering metaverse products. If you can't convince tech-savvy youths to care, I doubt you will convince the rest of society.

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ABOUT NEIL HOWE

Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.

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