By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
Many Nigerians are currently grappling with smartphone addiction, findings by Business Hallmark have revealed. Since its introduction into the country on the 6th of August, 2001, when ECONET (now Airtel), formally launched its services, followed closely by MTN, Glo and much later by Etisalat (now 9mobile), mobile phones have worked their way into the average Nigerian heart.
Today, it is practically impossible for many Nigerians to accomplish anything meaningful in a day without recourse to their phones, as they literally serve as mobile offices, business partners, entertainment fora as well as social interaction platforms.
However, a recent survey conducted by BH indicates that Nigerians’ addictions to their handsets have its downsides. It was established that overuse and addiction run on parallel lines as they cause negative effects such as impeding homely relationships, change in priorities and friends, sleeping disorders or change in sleep pattern as the artificial light that is emitted consists of harmful rays causing irritation and sleeplessness. It further causes teenagers to turn anti-social.
The addiction, according to the findings, has turned many Nigerians (especially the youths), into zombies; breakup marriages and homes, as well as bankrupted many, and many other unintended consequences.
Particularly troubling is how people get completely lost in their smartphone world, that they become totally oblivious of their surroundings and people around them. According to findings, many have met with untimely deaths through avoidable accidents.
On February 17, 2017, an unidentified young girl, who had gone to buy petrol, was crushed to death by a moving train at Fagba rail-crossing, Iju, a suburb of Lagos.
According to an eyewitness, the young girl who was clutching a gallon of fuel, which she had gone to buy from a nearby NNPC filling station just before the incident occurred, had an earpiece plugged to her ears. It was gathered that she was rushing to cross the rail track while others were waiting patiently for the train to pass.
“Probably because of the earpiece she put on, she couldn’t hear the sound of the oncoming train. As she attempted to dash across the rail, a middle aged man tried to stop her from crossing by holding her hand, but she brushed off his hands.”
The source added that immediately she dashed across the track, the oncoming train tore her body into two.
Also on April 2, 2015, an unidentified young man with earphone on was killed by a passenger train at Cappa area of Oshodi, Lagos. The man was standing on the rail track oblivious of the fast approaching train. The Ogun-Lagos-bound mass transit train was leaving its Oshodi station to Mushin when the accident occurred. The train had as usual, sounded its horn repeatedly as it was approaching the railway crossing at Ilupeju Bye-pass for clearance of its tracks.
According to an eyewitness, the man who had his earphone on was apparently carried away with either the call he was receiving or listening to music.
“Obviously the man was not aware of the approaching train even as it blasted its horn, perhaps because of the earphone. Before he knew it, he was already hit by the train and was not given any chance to escape.
“Immediately he was hit, the body was mangled as the train dragged it underneath. The man has suddenly and unwittingly lost his life to sheer carelessness,” the eyewitness said.
Several other cases of moving trains crushing to death people standing on the rail track because of having their earphones on have been reported.
A lady was in 2016, killed at Shogunle GRA railway crossing, while another one was killed in 2007 at Oshodi.
Apart from deaths and injuries from fatal train accidents, many others have lost lives and limbs through road crashes, either from careless drivers operating their phones while driving or pedestrians who walked into the paths of moving vehicles while distracted by their phones.
Smartphones addiction has also contributed to strained relationships and breakups of hitherto happy homes.
A very bitter husband, while lamenting his wife’s addiction to her mobile phone told our correspondent that the situation has negatively affected his relationship with his wife.
“I can no longer get her attention any longer as she often gets completely lost in her smartphone world. I have to shout at the top of my voice to get her attention. She chats with her friend even in the middle of the night. When I complained of the light of her phones disturbing my sleep, she decided to leave our bedroom for the sitting room to continue her chat undisturbed.
“She is always ensconced in her cocoon, a world bereft of real-life interactions and companionship. At times she will laugh so loud that I think something is wrong with her head. I think I have lost her and I curse the day GSM was introduced into the country”, said the worried husband who did not want his identity disclosed.
While many couples are having challenges with their marriages because of smartphone addiction, youths are getting their future destroyed through obsession to their handsets.
BH findings further revealed that many Nigerian youths, even adults, are now hooked to gaming, social and entertainment sites. Free games such as Candy Crush, Subway Surfer, Temple Run, Agent Dash, Zuma Revenge, among others are downloaded from Google Play Store on the phones to be played later by many game lovers.
Others who are not so passionate with games watch videos online while connected to You Tube, or interact with the outside world through Facebook, Instagram; Snapshots, Skype, WhatsApp, QQ, WeChat, QZone, Tumblr, Twitter and many others.
A mother, Mrs. Inumidun Apoeso, who spoke with BH on her bitter experience with the negative side of mobile phone addiction, said she has been fighting a running battle with her children because of their incurable addiction to their phones.
“I am sad to state that my children are examples of smartphone zombies. Whenever they are in the house, all they do is to engage their phones playing games, listening to music or chat online, while totally oblivious of the world around them. The usual one-on-one communication we used to have is no longer there. They now smile to themselves, laugh loudly or even speak to themselves while chatting with someone on the phone.
“What worries me is that their father is not concerned a bit. He always argues that we are in the jet age and should allow the children to run at their own speed. I am not saying they should not run at their own speed but I believe everything should be done with moderation,” she moaned.
Nigerians addiction to their phones also comes with a huge financial cost. Though, data and airtime are very expensive in the country, many still find ways to load their phones with air time and data for calling and browsing to the detriment of other basic needs.
A youth corps member serving with a media house in Lagos said that she spends N3,500 every two weeks to buy data on her phone. This adds up to N7,000 a month and N84,000 annually. Meanwhile, she collects less that N20, 000 a month as stipend from the Federal Government. How will she cope when the service is over and there is no other job.
A senior media practitioner also shared his life changing experience with our reporter. “I remember a time when Glo used to advertise that if you use up to N20, 000 airtime in a month you will be giving a bonus. I didn’t give it much attention until one month when I received a congratulatory test message from the network provider that I had spent over N20, 000 for the month and now qualified for the reward.
“I was so shocked and alarmed. This experience happened over ten years ago, so you can imagine the value of money then.This is the same me owing school fees of my children and yet had spent over N20, 000 in a month. I felt like smashing the phone on the wall. And that changed my habit for life. I now recharge a flat amount per month and when it finishes, no more recharge until the next month”, he said,
BH findings also revealed that many companies are not immune to the negative effects of the addiction of their staff to their handsets. According to officials in several firms visited, they have resorted to monitoring what their workers do online.
They said that most workers, particularly from the ages of 45 down, use their firms’wifi for private matters, thereby slowing down the internet speed. They disclosed that they had to block access to some sites that consume heavy bites such as Facebook, You Tube and Instagram.
“It got to a stage where when we can’t do anything on the internet again in our office. We can’t send urgent mails or transact business online. It is either the net is crawling at a snail speed or not going at all. When we complained to our network provider, we were told that we were overloading our system, which in turn slowed down our internet.
“It was noticed that the net moves like lightening early in the morning when most workers are not at work or when they had closed for the day. When out IT guy investigated further, we found out that most workers hooked on to sites that consume heavy bites while at work.
“We decided to monitor the use of the internet and charge any worker found culpable for the data they used. That helped but didn’t stop the data theft until we blocked access to the sites”, said Yinka Atobatele, the IT manager of Corporate Office Max, a publishing outfit in Ikeja, Lagos.
A survey carried out to understand how Lagosians are increasingly growing dependent on smartphones revealed some startling revelations.
About 71 percent parents affirmed that their teenage children are addicted to their phones, while about 65 percent teenagers themselves confessed about their inclination towards these gadgets.
The survey revealed that the most common signs observed amongst addicts were withdrawal, anxiety, feeling of discomfort when the phone is kept out of reach.
“According to a psychologist, Dr. Idowu Ogunlusi, “You know you are addicted when you check your phone hourly, become highly obsessed when you can’t find your phone near you or find yourself battling the urge to use them even when you are engaged in important work that involves your complete attention such as the time in school or at work.
“These habits do cause major life risk. Due to such a haphazard behaviour exhibited by teenagers, there are plenty fights between parents and teenagers. There is a finding that proves that around 48% of parents and only 30% teens believe that most fights occur due to the use of cell phones.
“Unfortunately, it is not just the teenagers battling this addiction; in fact their parents too are guilty. The study recorded that 27 percent of parents too face cell phone addiction because of their constant urge to post something on social media or respond to a text message”, he stated.