In a 2017 study carried out by Tiger Mobile it was revealed that the average smartphone user spends two and half hours on their device each day. That’s 17 and a half hours a week. On paper, that’s a fairly shocking statistic.

The prevailing notion is that people spending longer on their phones is an inherently bad thing. We’re told that anyone with a phone in their hand is wasting their time. There are also plenty of opinion pieces which suggest that despite its name, social media is actually making us feel more isolated and less social than ever before.

Some articles have even likened mobile phone obsession to smoking- a dangerous and misleading comparison that suggests our daily consumption could lead to serious health problems.

Certainly, there’s no denying that tech addiction is a very real thing. It’s alarming that people have felt compelled to seek rehabilitation to improve their relationship with their phone.

It’s also upsetting to see entire families staring into their screens at a restaurant. It’s equally frustrating to have someone bump into you on the pavement because they’re too preoccupied with an app to watch where they’re going.

But is it accurate to suggest that all phone users are throwing all of their time and brainpower down the drain?   

What if we looked at the ways that our mobile devices have helped to improve our working and personal lives? Might we discover that they have the potential to make us far more productive and creative than we were before they arrived on the scene?

Let’s start by challenging some commonly held assumptions.  

Not everyone who spends their morning commute on their phone is mindlessly scrolling social media or flinging cartoon birds around.

The guy in the pinstripe suit you see each day zoned in on his phone? He might not be furrowing his brow because of something he saw on Instagram, but because he’s in the middle of arranging portable toilet hire and a DJ for an event he’s hosting.

I grant that this scenarios might be something of a stretch, but they’re also not impossible. If it helps to back up my argument at all, I’ll gladly admit to writing a section of this article on the bus using my iPhone.

People often forget that not all apps are designed to kill time. Whilst there may have been more chat surrounding Flappy Bird than the latest productivity app, there’s a huge market for apps that help to improve our workflow.

There are also a host of project management apps that surely help to reduce the number of pointless meetings that take place every year.

What I’m getting at is the idea that in the right hands, a mobile device can be a very powerful tool.

In a world where it’s increasingly popular to be on either side of a debate it’s crucial to remember that there is such a thing as nuance. Rather than assigning all mobile usage as evil, we’d do well to consider all of the things that our mobile phones make possible.  

Yes, our mobiles can be a massive source of distraction. Yes, social media can be very damaging if it replaces our interactions with the “real world”.  

But our phones can also provide solutions to the problems we face in our professional and personal lives- They can help us contribute to important discussions on the go, and they can connect us with our friends and family who live miles from where we live. These things are worth remembering when we make our assessments of whether someone staring at their phone is deserving of scorn.