We’re not addicted to smartphones, we’re addicted to social interaction. And this is a good thing.

Those are the findings of a McGill University study recently summarized in Neuroscience News.

We all know people who, seemingly incapable of living without the bright screen of their phone for more than a few minutes, are constantly texting and checking out what friends are up to on social media.

These are examples of what many consider to be the antisocial behaviour brought on by smartphone addiction, a phenomenon that has garnered media attention in the past few months and led investors and consumers to demand that tech giants address this problem.

Multiple students in a Indiana University Law School class I attended last week challenged other students to be more present. To engage others socially, versus being tied to their cellphones.

I wondered if the students appreciated the value of their smartphones for social interaction for learning, networking and building a name.

Did the students understand the tremendous value in social interaction on a smartphone? If they were like most legal professionals, they had no idea.

The study’s findings confirmed my feelings.

…[W]hat if we were looking at things the wrong way? Could smartphone addiction be hyper-social, not anti-social?

Professor Samuel Veissière, a cognitive anthropologist who studies the evolution of cognition and culture, explains that the desire to watch and monitor others, but also to be seen and monitored by others, runs deep in our evolutionary past. Humans evolved to be a uniquely social species and require constant input from others to seek a guide for culturally appropriate behaviour. This is also a way for them to find meaning, goals, and a sense of identity.

In a forthcoming study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Samuel Veissière and Moriah Stendel, researchers in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, reviewed current literature on dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens, and found that the most addictive smartphone functions all shared a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people. (Emphasis added)

Professor Veissière is spot on, “There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic.”

We should be looking at the news here, says Veissière. Any addiction arises out of our desire for human interaction, and there are simple solutions to deal with that, ie, turn off notificactions or your phone at certain times.

Focus on the value of a smartphone, says Veissière.

Rather than start regulating the tech companies or the use of these devices, we need to start having a conversation about the appropriate way to use smartphones. Parents and teachers need to be made aware of how important this is.

Ignorance runs rampant here. Lawyers, law school professors and law firms see being addicted to smartphones as a bad thing. Even using a smartphone for social interaction is seen by these folks as having nominal value. Most boast of not using Facebook and Twitter, as if that’s for people below them.

These folks need to be made aware of how important social networking via a smartphone is.

  • Following focused news and information on a news aggegrator or Twitter
  • Sharing this news on social networks with your comments
  • Engaging other legal professionals who comment on and like what you have shared
  • Further network with these individuals, business people, legal professionals and influencers – bloggers, reporters, association leaders, conference coordinators
  • Leverage your growing network and relationships for business, speaking engagements and the like
  • Lerverage the name you’ll have built by social networking

Can you really do all this with a smart phone? Absolutely.

The computer in your pocket or purse is probably the single most powerful – and certainly the most accessible – device you have for learning and networking.

And a big reason for this is so many other people being addicted to social interaction on their smartphone – and knowing how to do so in a valuable way.