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Walking into people while browsing on your phone? Maybe it's time for a digital detox

Research shows that 15 million of us are concerned that we might prefer the company of our iPad, laptop, or phone to the company of our friends.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Time for a digital detox?

Image: Ofcom

Do you find yourself texting your friends all day, every day? Is Pokémon Go just so enticing you can't put it down? While texting on the move do you often collide with a fellow smartphone user?

If any of the above applies to you, you might have a problem. However, according to telecoms watchdog Ofcom, there's a good chance that you not only know that, but you've tried, or are currently trying, to do something about it.

Some 15 million people, or around a quarter of the UK population, have at some time tried a 'digital detox', Ofcom said: they've tried digital abstinence and gone for a period of time without accessing any digital devices.

The fuel for the addiction is the faster internet access available today -- to most parts of the country, at least -- Ofcom said, adding such speeds are "more widely available than ever before, with take-up of superfast broadband and 4G on the increase".

In addition, the ability to watch the latest on-demand series or chat with friends and family over instant messaging has led "to a recent surge in popularity", Ofcom said.

Three in four internet users (75 percent) consider the web 'important' to their daily lives, while close to eight in 10 (78 percent) say it helps keep them up-to-date with current affairs and social issues.

But we are not just a nation of watchers, the report says: two-thirds of us (63 percent) credit the online world with "inspiring them to try new things such as travel destinations, restaurants, recipes or entertainment".

But all that entertainment and recipe-hunting does take time. According to the report, adult users in the UK currently spend an average of one day per week (25 hours) online. Some 42 percent say they go online or check apps more than 10 times a day, while around one in 10 (11 percent) access the internet more than 50 times daily.

Jane Rumble, the director of market intelligence at Ofcom, believes the regulator's figures are accurate but says that "our love affair with the web isn't always plain surfing", and that many people "admit to feeling hooked". However, it's a good sign that the results also show that "millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives", she added.


She thinks that it is a good thing for people to "go on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance".

Ofcom believes the way people are 'hooked' is illustrated by their sleeping behaviour: half (51 percent) of all mobile users make sure their phone is within reaching distance when they go to bed, while a similar proportion say the last thing they do before they sleep (45 percent) and when they wake up (44 percent) is to check their phone.


A quarter (27 percent) of mobile users said that when they wake up during the night, the first thing they do is check their phone.

Perhaps not surprisingly, "some respondents" report negative effects if the device they use to access the internet is taken away or inaccessible for some reason.

Close to half (47 percent) said that "they feel lost when they cannot access the internet", and it's worse for young people, with six in ten (59 percent) of 16 to 24 year olds saying the same thing.

Fifteen percent of internet users and a quarter (25 percent) of 16 to 24 year olds said that when they are offline they feel nervous and/or anxious.

You can find the full Ofcom report here.

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