What Does It Mean to Be Mobile Dependent?

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You are mobile dependent. We are all mobile dependent. That's not a bad thing! "Mobile dependent" is a phrase tossed around a lot these days, but somehow it's always used as a knock against today's generation. Clearly there's not a very good understanding of the term among the general public. So we'll answer the question: What does it mean to be mobile dependent?

Let's break it down. Mobile effectively refers to any device that connects you with other people and the internet, that you can carry around with one hand (e.g. cell phones, tablets). Dependent means that you rely on this device for one or more tasks. Ergo, if you use a cell phone as a way to communicate with others regularly, you are mobile dependent. Simple, huh?

In the literature and commentaries, there's rarely a distinction made between mobile dependence and mobile addiction, when in fact there's a huge disparity between the two! Our mothers who've been using "dumb phones" for the last twenty years to text and call everyone in the family are mobile dependent. They're not addicted to mobile devices.

Mobile addiction comes with compulsivity. We check our phones 150 times a day, and 67% of us do so compulsively (without first being notified). It's prevalent, but not the rule. Mobile addiction also comes with the inability to go without a device. You may have a preference for social media over interacting with family at this year's reunion, but that doesn't mean you're addicted. Addiction means you can't say "no." You can't leave your device in another room while you watch a movie or go for a hike.

You can be a heavy mobile user without being addicted. Mobile dependence is not synonymous with mobile addiction. After all, many of us rely on mobile technology to do our jobs everyday! We spend hours staring at screens, but that doesn't mean we're addicted or have to keep staring at those screens when we go home. It means that we're dependent on this technology, that consumer and business practices have adapted with innovation - as they always have.

Before mobile technology there was TV. We were dependent on television for our entertainment, for our news, even for our introductions to new products and new music. Television dependence was a real, prominent thing. But there was no insult of being television dependent. It was bad to become addicted to television, of course, but there was a general understanding that television serves a purpose and adds value.

Before television there was radio, where the exact same thing happened! Instead of playing outside, you'd listen to Dragnet and the Green Hornet, catch the ball game, keep up with what's going on in the world, and hear new music. This pattern goes on for generation after generation. Dependence on technology and innovation is not a new thing. It's not a bad thing!

Mobile dependence means that you rely on mobile technology to do one or more things on a regular basis. It has nothing to do with addiction or missing out on life. It means that an item or technology has become a staple of how we interact with the world and get things done. We are all mobile dependent. That's not a bad thing.