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Tim Cook on CNN
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Tim Cook Uses His iPhone Too Much

In an interview with CNN’s Laurie Segall, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a surprising confession: he uses his iPhone too much. He said he reached this conclusion after seeing the data gathered by iOS 12’s new Screen Time feature (see “iOS 12 to Focus on Performance and Refinement,” 4 June 2018):

“I’ve been using it and I have to tell you: I thought I was fairly disciplined about this. And I was wrong. When I began to get the data, I found I was spending a lot more time than I should. And the number of times I picked up the phone were too many.”

Cook stopped short of calling the iPhone addictive, though. “The device is not addictive in and of itself. It’s what you do on it. Whether the word is ‘addiction’ or not, I don’t know,” Cook said. His reticence to acknowledge that smartphones are addictive is appropriate, given Apple’s role to this point in supporting such behaviors—there’s no telling what future lawsuits could hinge on a slip of the CEO tongue. (The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition separates behavioral addictions from substance addictions, but it doesn’t classify smartphone use as such right now. Psychiatry Advisor has a useful article defining the criteria for identification of smartphone addiction.)

Regardless, it’s good to see Apple building Screen Time into iOS 12, and Google announced a similar feature, Android Dashboard, at the recent Google I/O developer conference. If you’re looking for help in this area right now, check out Moment.

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Comments About Tim Cook Uses His iPhone Too Much

Notable Replies

  1. Much of the discussion concerning smartphone addiction is blather. There is a reason to be concerned about the usage patterns of EVERYTHING that people spend large amounts of time on. In the absence of coercion, everything that people choose to spend time on has a payoff. Some writers seem to want to name every human activity an addiction. ‘It looks like we are finally starting to free society from that horrible addiction to reading books that has enslaved us for centuries’. If a discussion of addiction is to have any meaning, it must include more insight into the causes, problems, compensations, and complexities, rather than making “addiction” a synonym for “item used frequently”.

  2. Once again Tim strikes me as overly slick. His abilities at Newspeak are simply unmatched.

    “Heroin is not addictive in and of itself. It’s what you do with it. Whether the word is ‘addiction’ or not, I don’t know,”

    Let’s be real here. Children are given these devices which they then spend more hours a day on than they spend in school while at the same time they are doused with medication to treat “attention disorder” and hyperactivity or insomnia. But that’s just poor parenting. Oh no, wait. The parents can’t get it together either. An entire industry has sprung up intent on locking people into their app and dedicating as much effort as possible to finding out how to hook people to a certain online ‘activity’. Adults cannot put the devices down when driving or when crossing the street. So they get hit, hit others, or decide to take the hands off their Tesla’s steering wheel altogether because their device + autopilot = brave new world where nothing can go wrong. But sure, none of this is a real issue. New tech is always awesome. And our brains can adjust just as fast as the tech moves forward. So as long as Apple makes a lot of money and people find a little gadget to waste their time on, it’s all good. Just like heroin. It’s not additive. It’s about how you use it.

  3. Check out Conan O’Brien’s brand new commercial for the iPhone Basic:

    Marilyn :wink:

  4. Which is why I added the bit about the DSM and linked to the Psychiatry Advisor article, which goes into a lot of this stuff.

  5. I appreciate links to greater information, but the Psychiatry Advisor article is worse than most in making unsubstantiated and vague assertions. In order to not fall behind in the footnote race, allow me to link to a recent, peer-reviewed article by the most frequently cited technology authority and commentator (of those having hooves and a Mac Plus case included in their anatomy). “The addiction: That thing we made up is all Apple’s fault”. https://www.macworld.com/article/3276309/apple-phone/the-addiction-that-thing-we-made-up-is-all-apple-s-fault.html

    In my opinion, The Macalope gives a more accurate evaluation of the problem than Psychiatry Advisor, and he/she/it is a lot more entertaining.

  6. It’s awfully easy to scoff and make snarky comments, but we’ve seen firsthand the negative effects that technology addiction has on children in our son’s cohort—kids who we’ve known since they were infants and parents who have the best of intentions and aren’t doing anything egregiously wrong.

    No, technology addiction is very real. In one case, a kid basically failed to achieve the grades necessary to get into the level of university he wanted to because he couldn’t tear himself away from videogames. And another child, who goes to bed immediately upon coming home from school and then gets up after everyone else has gone to sleep so he can play unmolested all night, has thus far failed to even apply to college. Neither of these cases have to do with smartphones, but we’ve seen lots of friction between other children and parents about excessive time spent on phones. Heck, when sports teams take buses to away games, many of the kids don’t even talk to each other, since they’re on their phones the entire time.

  7. I agree that it is easy to scoff and make snarky comments, which is one of my objections to Josh’s original article. You say that “technology addiction is very real” and I say that we have a series of behavioral problems that are as yet not well understood and characterized. My position is supported by DSM V, the premier authority on psychological diagnoses in this country. But it is slow moving. Your position is supported by Psychiatry Advisor, and thousands of popular press articles. My concern is that calling anything and everything an addiction, without proper research, impedes understanding and appropriate treatment/action.

  8. But who is doing that?

    My psychologist wife pointed out to me many years ago that addiction (among other things) usually requires that something impedes our ability to lead normal everyday lives.

    I think people who cannot sleep because they can’t put their phones away or kids who can’t get into college because of excessive online ‘habits’ more than just meet that criterion.

    I don’t really understand where your wariness on this topic comes from. It’s quite obvious that our brains, our emotional lives and our social behavior hasn’t caught up with the pace tech is moving ahead. There are very real and severe problems related to how we use the ever evolving gadgets around us. I don’t see what harm comes from putting a spotlight on that and scrutinizing certain ongoing developments from an emotional and social point of view. At the very least it’s a refreshing change form the usual all-new-tech-is-awesome-so-let’s-all-spend-a-crap-ton-of-money-on-it-and-go-totally-bonkers marketing BS the industry likes to spread.

  9. Endorsing pseudo-science is harmful. Pseudo-science includes making scientific claims without proper scientific support. It includes making scientific claims about a series of poorly documented, similar-seeming anecdotes. Conflating diverse problems under a single label, ‘addiction’, in this case, decreases the accuracy and value of that term, and it decreases the chances of finding appropriate, effective treatments for each problem. I am fully in favor of “putting the spotlight” on problems, and I am fully opposed to spreading pseudo-science and pseudo-journalism jargon. I would like TidBITS to maintain its high standards for accuracy and careful reporting, rather than join the slide into USA-Today style superficiality and adoption of buzzwords.

  10. Well, Sir, then let me just say that I see nothing in what Josh or Adam wrote as “endorsing” pseudo science. And considering I am a tenured scientist at one of the US’ best public universities, I hope you trust that I share your distaste for pseudo science. But in this case, I think you’re really being quite unfair if you insinuate that is what they were trying to do.

  11. The fact that we commented on how Tim Cook was clever enough not to say that Apple’s products were addictive, likely for legal reasons, doesn’t count as careful reporting? And then we went on to note that DSM V doesn’t currently categorize smartphone use as an addition right now, and expanded on that with a link to another article with 15 journal references. DSM may not yet categorize excessive smartphone use as an addiction (they only honor online gambling with such a label now), but I don’t think it’s inaccurate to call a duck a duck.

    More than half of what we wrote in a very short pointer piece was aimed at contextualizing and clarifying the terminology in question. I certainly hope that counts as careful and accurate because if not, we’re putting in way too much work.

  12. I agree that it is easy to scoff and make snarky comments, which is one of my objections to Josh’s original article.

    Snarky??? When I read the article my first thought was to recall the famous remarks Groucho Marks reportedly said but were never aired…“I love my cigar but I take it out of my mouth sometimes.”

    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/the-secret-words/

    You say that “technology addiction is very real” and I say that we have a series of behavioral problems that are as yet not well understood and characterized. My position is supported by DSM V, the premier authority on psychological diagnoses in this country.

    Although every official source might not agree whether technology is actually addictive or compulsive, it is true that many children and adults overindulge and suffer because of it. iPhone, unfortunately, did facilitate this type of self destructive behavior. I’m glad Apple developed controls that can help individuals and parents avoid behaviors that would be harmful.

    But it is slow moving. Your position is supported by Psychiatry Advisor, and thousands of popular press articles. My concern is that calling anything and everything an addiction, without proper research, impedes understanding and appropriate treatment/action.

    Personally, I don’t care how whoever or whatever classifies this behavior or what they officially name it. I’m glad Apple is leading the industry with this initiative. And I hope the issue doesn’t degenerate into something like the second amendment debate.

    Little Miss Snarky

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