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We feel 'homeless' when we lose our phones, researchers say

We’ve become so attached to our phones that we feel ‘homeless’ when we lose them, according to new research.

Anthropologists at University College London (UCL) looked at smartphone use in nine countries and found that, more than just devices for carrying out tasks, our smartphones are ‘the place where we live’, allowing us to express our personalities, interests and values. We adapt them to our needs and have swapped face-to-face time with family, friends and colleagues for hours spent ‘at home’ on our smartphones.

People of all ages are creatively adapting smartphones to work for them, bringing social, economic, cultural, educational and health benefits, said Professor Daniel Miller, who led the study.

Group of people on phones

“The smartphone is no longer just a device that we use, it’s become the place where we live. The flip side of that for human relationships is that any point, whether over a meal, a meeting or other shared activity, a person we’re with can just disappear, having ‘gone home’ to their smartphone.”

At the same time, however, smartphones are helping us “create and recreate” helpful behaviours, “from re-establishing extended families to creating new spaces for healthcare and political debate,” Professor Miller added. “It is only by looking at the vastly different uses and contexts that we can fully understand the consequences of smartphones for people’s lives around the world.”

While the uses for smartphones vary widely, they have become basic necessities — not least because of the amount of time we spend using them.

“The smartphone is perhaps the first object to challenge the house itself (and possibly also the workplace) in terms of the amount of time we dwell in it while awake,” the researchers said.

“We are always ‘at home’ in our smartphone. We have become human snails carrying our home in our pockets.”

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