6 Minute English

Intermediate level

Smartphone addiction

Episode 180712 / 12 Jul 2018

Are you a phubber? Do you suffer from FOMO? These are words associated with smartphone addiction. 6 Minute English describes these words and discusses how you can kick the habit.

This week's question:

In what year did the term ‘smartphone’ first appear in print? Was it:

a) 1995
b) 2000
c) 2005

Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

FOMO
(acronym) Fear of Missing Out

phubber
person who ignores the real people around them because they are concentrating on their phones

addicted (to something)
having a physical or mental need to keep on doing something
 
compulsively
unable to stop doing something again and again

keep in touch with
stay in contact with 

in person
actually meeting someone face-to-face

Transcript

Note: This is not a word for word transcript 

Rob
Hello, welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Rob.

Catherine
And I'm Catherine.

Rob
So, Catherine, how long do you spend on your smartphone?

Catherine
My smartphone? Not that long really, only about 18 or 19 hours.

Rob
No, sorry, I meant in a day, not in a week.

Catherine
Er, that's what I meant too, Rob – a day.

Rob
Oh wow, so you’ve even got it right here…

Catherine
…yep, got it now, Rob. Yes, I should tell you that I suffer from FOMO.

Rob
FOMO?

Catherine
FOMO - Fear of Missing Out. Something cool or interesting might be happening somewhere, Rob, and I want to be sure I catch it, so I have to keep checking my phone, to make sure, you know, I don’t miss out on anything.

Rob
So we could call you a phubber… Hello… I said, so you’re a phubber? Someone who ignores other people because you’d rather look at your phone.

Catherine
Oh, yeah, that's right.

Rob
It sounds like you have a bit of a problem there, Catherine. But you’re not the only one. According to one recent survey, half of teenagers in the USA feel like they are addicted to their mobile phones. If you are addicted to something, you have a physical or mental need to keep on doing it. You can’t stop doing it. You often hear about people being addicted to drugs or alcohol, but you can be addicted to other things too, like mobile phones. So, Catherine, do you think you’re addicted to your phone? How long could you go without it? Catherine? Catherine!

Catherine
Sorry, Rob, yes, well I think if I went more than a minute, I'd probably get sort of sweaty palms and I think I'd start feeling a bit panicky.  

Rob
Oh dear! Well, if I can distract you for a few minutes, can we look at this topic in more detail please? Let's start with a quiz question first though. In what year did the term ‘smartphone’ first appear in print? Was it:

a)    1995
b)    2000
c)     2005

What do you think?

Catherine
OK, you've got my full attention now, Rob, and I think it’s 2000, but actually can I just have a quick look on my phone to check the answer?

Rob
No, no, that would be cheating – for you – maybe not for the listeners.

Catherine
Spoilsport.

Rob
Right, Jean Twenge is a psychologist who has written about the damage she feels smartphones are doing to society. She has written that smartphones have probably led to an increase in mental health problems for teenagers. We’re going to hear from her now, speaking to the BBC. What does she say is one of the dangers of using our phones?

Jean Twenge, psychologist and author
I think everybody’s had that experience of reading their news feed too much, compulsively checking your phone if you’re waiting for a text or getting really into social media then kind of, looking up and realising that an hour has passed.

Rob
So what danger does she mention?

Catherine
Well, she said that we can get so involved in our phones that we don’t notice the time passing and when we finally look up, we realise that maybe an hour has gone. And I must say, I find that to be true for me, especially when I'm watching videos online. They pull you in with more and more videos and I’ve spent ages just getting lost in video after video.

Rob
Well that's not a problem if you're looking at our YouTube site, of course - there's lots to see there.

Catherine
Yes, BBC Learning English, no problem. You can watch as many as you like.

Rob
Well, she talks about checking our phones compulsively. If you do something compulsively you can’t really control it - it’s a feature of being addicted to something, you feel you have to do it again and again. Some tech companies, though, are now looking at building in timers to apps which will warn us when we have spent too long on them. Does Jean Twenge think this will be a good idea?

Jean Twenge, psychologist and author
It might mean that people look at social media less frequently and that they do what it really should be used for, which is to keep in touch with people but then put it away and go see some of those people in person or give them a phone call.

Rob
So, does she think it’s a good idea?

Catherine
Well, she doesn’t say so directly, but we can guess from her answer that she does, because she says these timers will make people spend more time in face-to-face interaction, which a lot of people think would be a good thing.

Rob
Yes, she said we should be using it for keeping in touch with people - which means contacting people, communicating with them and also encouraging us to do that communication in person. If you do something in person then you physically do it – you go somewhere yourself or see someone yourself, you don’t do it online or through your smartphone, which nicely brings us back to our quiz question. When was the term smartphone first used in print - 1995, 2000 or 2005? What did you say, Catherine?

Catherine
I think I said 2005, without looking it up on my phone, Rob!

Rob
That's good to know, but maybe looking at your phone would have helped because the answer was 1995. But well done to anybody who did know that.

Catherine
Or well done to anyone who looked it up on their phone and got the right answer.

Rob
Mmm, right, before logging off let’s review today’s vocabulary.

Catherine
OK, we had FOMO, an acronym that means 'Fear of Missing Out'. Something that I get quite a lot.

Rob
And that makes you also a phubber - people who ignore the real people around them because they are concentrating on their phones.

Catherine
Yes, I do think I’m probably addicted to my phone. I have a psychological and physical need to have it. My smartphone is my drug.

Rob
Wow, and you look at it compulsively. You can’t stop looking at it, you do it again and again, don't you?

Catherine
It's sadly true, Rob. To keep in touch with someone is to contact them and share your news regularly.

Rob
And if you do that yourself by actually meeting them, then you are doing it in person. And that brings us to the end of today’s programme. Don’t forget you can find us on the usual social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube -  and on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Bye for now.

Catherine
Bye!

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  • Never too old

    Never too old

    Episode 160421 / 21 Apr 2016

    Is retirement the end of everything or just a door for new opportunities? Alice and Rob talk about aging

  • Do you think for yourself?

    Do you think for yourself?

    Episode 160414 / 14 Apr 2016

    Do you always agree with what most people in your group say? Neil and Sophie discuss staff meetings.

  • Brain training

    Brain training

    Episode 160407 / 07 Apr 2016

    Neil and Sophie discuss the health benefits of being able to speak two languages fluently. And Neil... speaks Japanese!

  • Is social media a distraction?

    Is social media a distraction?

    Episode 160331 / 31 Mar 2016

    How often do you check your phone? Neil and Sophie discuss how social media is changing the way we interact.

  • Gardening

    Gardening

    Episode 160324 / 24 Mar 2016

    Sophie and Neil discover that soil has some surprising qualities and discuss how growing food can be therapeutic too

  • What's in a fairy tale?

    What's in a fairy tale?

    Episode 160317 / 17 Mar 2016

    Sophie and Neil talk about traditional fairy tales for the adult market and teach you some magical vocabulary

  • Corporate team building

    Corporate team building

    Episode 160310 / 10 Mar 2016

    Neil and Sophie discuss the growing industry of team building – from zombie bootcamps to horse training for executives.

  • Life on Mars

    Life on Mars

    Episode 160303 / 03 Mar 2016

    Neil and Sophie discuss Mars, the fourth rock from the Sun

  • It's all in the genes

    It's all in the genes

    Episode 160225 / 25 Feb 2016

    Neil and Sophie talk about gene editing, designer babies and how many errors Neil might have in his genetic code.

  • Giving away your fortune

    Giving away your fortune

    Episode 160218 / 18 Feb 2016

    How generous are you? Neil and Sophie discuss Mark Zuckerberg and what it takes to be a modern-day philanthropist.

  • How would you like to pay?

    How would you like to pay?

    Episode 160211 / 11 Feb 2016

    Are the days of paying by cash for a latte or a newspaper nearly gone? Alice and Neil discuss Neil's fondness for loose change...

  • How do you like your tea?

    How do you like your tea?

    Episode 160204 / 04 Feb 2016

    Tea comes in different forms – milky, sweet or spicy. Alice and Neil discuss how this Asian leaf conquered the world.

  • The commute

    The commute

    Episode 160128 / 28 Jan 2016

    Train, car, bicycle ... Hundreds of millions of us make the same journey day in day out. Take a hike with Alice and Neil and learn new vocabulary.

  • Are we afraid of food?

    Are we afraid of food?

    Episode 160121 / 21 Jan 2016

    Are food allergies on the increase and if so, why? Neil and Alice talk about the growing fear of food and teach new words.

  • Is modern life making us tired?

    Is modern life making us tired?

    Episode 160114 / 14 Jan 2016

    Are artificial lights and late night TV ruining our sleep? Neil and Alice discuss the issue and teach you related vocabulary.

  • Asking the right questions

    Asking the right questions

    Episode 160107 / 07 Jan 2016

    What does it take to be a good interviewer? Neil and Alice discuss TV chat show hosts and teach you some related vocabulary.

  • The way we look

    The way we look

    Episode 151231 / 31 Dec 2015

    How much does appearance really matter? Neil and Alice discuss fitness and New Year's resolutions

  • Christmas kindness

    Christmas kindness

    Episode 151224 / 24 Dec 2015

    Some families struggle to buy even food and can’t afford presents. Neil and Alice discuss how some charities are helping those in need.

  • Why do we take risks?

    Why do we take risks?

    Episode 151217 / 17 Dec 2015

    Alice and Finn talk about the passion some people have for danger and the unseen threats we face every day

  • Is student life all good?

    Is student life all good?

    Episode 151210 / 10 Dec 2015

    Alice and Neil discuss the psychological pressures of going to university. They also teach some related vocabulary.

  • Robin Hood

    Robin Hood

    Episode 151203 / 03 Dec 2015

    Neil and Alice discuss the long-lasting appeal of this man with a bow and how he has changed over the centuries

  • How much is your spouse worth?

    How much is your spouse worth?

    Episode 151126 / 26 Nov 2015

    Do you know how much your partner earns? Is he or she in debt? Would this make you love them less?

  • 100 Women

    100 Women

    Episode 151119 / 19 Nov 2015

    The BBC broadcasts a season of programmes discussing women's issues around the world

  • What makes us laugh?

    What makes us laugh?

    Episode 151112 / 12 Nov 2015

    Are you good at telling jokes? What makes a good comedian?

  • The impact of plastic

    The impact of plastic

    Episode 151105 / 05 Nov 2015

    Should we all pay for supermarket plastic bags? Neil and Alice take a look at the environmental impact of plastic and teach you some related words.

  • Shakespeare in plain English

    Shakespeare in plain English

    Episode 151029 / 29 Oct 2015

    Should the difficult language of Shakespeare be 'translated' into plain English?

  • New transport on two wheels

    New transport on two wheels

    Episode 151022 / 22 Oct 2015

    The bicycle is the most popular form of two-wheeled transport in the world, but could we all soon be using hoverboards? Listen to Neil and Finn's conversation and learn some new words.

  • Will robots take our jobs?

    Will robots take our jobs?

    Episode 151015 / 15 Oct 2015

    If you are sitting at a desk or answering the phone, stop for a moment and ask: could a robot or machine do this job better? Neil and Finn discuss the future of our jobs.

  • Do we read to show off?

    Do we read to show off?

    Episode 151008 / 08 Oct 2015

    Neil and Alice discuss what kind of book people like to be seen reading. Do you like to impress people with a classic book in your hands?

  • Summer-born kids

    Summer-born kids

    Episode 151001 / 01 Oct 2015

    Does being born in the summer reduce your chance of going to university?

  • The Earth's core

    The Earth's core

    Episode 150924 / 24 Sep 2015

    Take a trip with Rob and Alice to find out about the Earth’s core. They’ll discuss how hot it is – and whether there are any dinosaurs living there!

  • The meaning of clothes

    The meaning of clothes

    Episode 150917 / 17 Sep 2015

    Do you dress formally or casually? Do you choose trendy items or old comfortable ones? Rob and Will talk about the meaning of clothes.

  • The Proms

    The Proms

    Episode 150910 / 10 Sep 2015

    It's been described as the world's largest and most democratic classical music festival. Neil and Finn guide you through the BBC Proms

  • Is knuckle cracking good for you?

    Is knuckle cracking good for you?

    Episode 150903 / 03 Sep 2015

    What an awful sound - cracking your knuckles! Listen in to Rob and Neil to find out if it's a useful skill or just an annoying habit

  • Evolution before Darwin

    Evolution before Darwin

    Episode 150827 / 27 Aug 2015

    Was Charles Darwin the only man with ideas about evolution? Rob and Neil talk about someone else who discovered it first.

  • Lifts

    Lifts

    Episode 150820 / 20 Aug 2015

    What are the modern day dilemmas in using a lift? Rob and Neil discuss the awkwardness and irritation of being in one

  • Compulsory voting

    Compulsory voting

    Episode 150813 / 13 Aug 2015

    Should young people be made to vote in elections or should we choose? We discuss the ideas behind compulsory voting

  • Chins

    Chins

    Episode 150806 / 08 Aug 2015

    What do we need our chins for? Rob and Neil discuss how we got them and what our chins say about us

  • Why do gibbons sing duets?

    Why do gibbons sing duets?

    Episode 150730 / 30 Jul 2015

    Why do gibbons sing duets and what has this got to do with the evolution of the human language?

  • Are models too skinny?

    Are models too skinny?

    Episode 150723 / 23 Jul 2015

    Skinny models: What does the law say about walking the catwalk?

  • Is a game just a game?

    Is a game just a game?

    Episode 150716 / 16 Jul 2015

    The dangers of computer games. How good are they for our health?

  • The wonder of blood

    The wonder of blood

    Episode 150709 / 09 Jul 2015

    It's amazing! What part of our body have scientists discovered can heal and help us?

  • Why did Singapore ban gum?

    Why did Singapore ban gum?

    Episode 150702 / 02 Jul 2015

    Do you chew gum and what do you do with it when you've finished? Listen to Rob and Finn discussing the history and chemical properties of gum and why it's messing up our streets whilst explaining some related vocabulary

  • Food banks

    Food banks

    Episode 150625 / 25 Jun 2015

    Food banks provide food to people in the UK who can't afford to buy their own. Rob and Finn discuss this how they work and how they help many of the country's poorest

  • The teenage brain

    The teenage brain

    Episode 150618 / 18 Jun 2015

    Listen to Neil and Rob discussing mood swings, risk taking, and why people make fun of teenagers, while they also explore some related vocabulary.

  • The Outernet

    The Outernet

    Episode 150611 / 11 Jun 2015

    How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge

  • Is aggression useful?

    Is aggression useful?

    Episode 150604 / 04 Jun 2015

    What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.

  • Are beards back to stay?

    Are beards back to stay?

    Episode 150528 / 28 May 2015

    Big bushy beards have become so fashionable that there's now an art exhibition dedicated to them

  • Is a door just a door?

    Is a door just a door?

    Episode 150521 / 21 May 2015

    A London apartment block has front and back entrances for private and social housing - or so-called rich and poor doors. Does it make sense to you? Listen to a discussion whilst learning some housing-related vocabulary

  • The first space walk

    The first space walk

    Episode 150514 / 14 May 2015

    Fifty years ago, on 18 March 1965, Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk. Listen to Rob and Neil describing the struggles of that ground-breaking space mission whilst explaining some related vocabulary.

  • Wireless furniture for phones

    Wireless furniture for phones

    Episode 150507 / 07 May 2015

    Furniture with built-in wireless charging technology - like a coffee table is now being sold. 'Built-in' means the technology is included as part of the table. So you just pop your phone on the table, and technology does the rest!

  • Saving China's elephants

    Saving China's elephants

    Episode 150430 / 30 Apr 2015

    Many animals face extinction. But people are realising that they must act now to stop further losses. A scheme to save the Asian elephant in China could provide an answer.

  • Life without music

    Life without music

    Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015

    How does music make you feel? Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub

  • The story behind coffee

    The story behind coffee

    Episode 150416 / 16 Apr 2015

    Coffee is now the most popular drink in the world. But what about the economics and politics of coffee production? It's as complicated as getting the right flavour in your cup

  • The sun

    The sun

    Episode 150409 / 09 Apr 2015

    Rob and Neil put on their sunglasses to find out more about this special star and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won’t be blinded with science!

  • The three-parent baby

    The three-parent baby

    Episode 150402 / 02 Apr 2015

    The UK has become the first country to approve legislation allowing the creation of babies with genetic material from three people. Listen to Neil and Harry’s conversation and learn some related vocabulary.

  • A threat to London's artwork?

    A threat to London's artwork?

    Episode 150326 / 26 Mar 2015

    What are some art galleries banning to protect their paintings? Find out with Neil and Harry

  • Human microchips

    Human microchips

    Episode 150319 / 19 Mar 2015

    An electronic device under your skin?! Workers in Sweden take part in experiment which allows them to get in and out of their office without a key, ID or password. Listen to Neil and Harry’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

  • The two sides of Churchill

    The two sides of Churchill

    Episode 150312 / 12 Mar 2015

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is known throughout the world for his role in defeating Nazi Germany but he also made mistakes. Listen to Neil and Mike’s discussion, and learn new vocabulary.

  • Poverty in a rich world

    Poverty in a rich world

    Episode 150305 / 05 Mar 2015

    We live in a richer world. But the gap between rich and poor is still very wide in individual countries. How to change this? Listen to Rob and Harry’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.

  • The cost of life-saving vaccines

    The cost of life-saving vaccines

    Episode 150226 / 26 Feb 2015

    The price of vaccines has escalated and some poor countries are struggling to prevent children from catching certain life-threatening diseases, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. Listen to Rob and Neil’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.

  • Do you fear Artificial Intelligence?

    Do you fear Artificial Intelligence?

    Episode 150219 / 19 Feb 2015

    Will thinking computers be the end of humans? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

  • Should tourists go to Antarctica?

    Should tourists go to Antarctica?

    Episode 150212 / 12 Feb 2015

    About 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this season. But should they be going to a region with such a sensitive environment? Listen to Rob and Neil’s conversation and learn some new vocabulary.

  • Does your CV shine?

    Does your CV shine?

    Episode 150205 / 05 Feb 2015

    At a time when more people compete for fewer jobs, are you sure you present your skills and abilities well to a potential employer? Listen to Rob and Neil's conversation and learn some related vocabulary.

  • Are you big on small talk?

    Are you big on small talk?

    Episode 150129 / 29 Jan 2015

    Going to a party where you don't know anyone? Listen to Rob and Neil's advice and learn some related vocabulary

  • Are computers making us dumb?

    Are computers making us dumb?

    Episode 150122 / 22 Jan 2015

    We use computers for everything nowadays. Are we forgetting our own abilities - and losing our talent? Listen to Rob and Neil's discussion, and learn some related vocabulary

  • Smokers to face one more ban

    Smokers to face one more ban

    Episode 150115 / 15 Jan 2015

    Smoking in cars with children might be banned in England. Listen to Neil and Rob's chat and learn some related vocabulary

  • Bullying or normal competition?

    Bullying or normal competition?

    Episode 150108 / 08 Jan 2015

    Is bullying just an attempt to give a bad name to what is part of human nature? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

  • Time capsules

    Time capsules

    Episode 150101 / 01 Jan 2015

    What would you put in your time capsule? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn new vocabulary

  • The Christmas Truce

    The Christmas Truce

    Episode 141225 / 25 Dec 2014

    When enemy soldiers sang together in WW1. Listen to Rob and Finn’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

  • 42 languages

    42 languages

    Episode 141218 / 18 Dec 2014

    The London school where students speak 42 different languages

  • Laughter is bad for you

    Laughter is bad for you

    Episode 141211 / 11 Dec 2014

    Laughter isn't always the best medicine, says research

  • Cloud of suspicion

    Cloud of suspicion

    Episode 141204 / 04 Dec 2014

    Are your pictures, documents and videos safe online? Listen to Rob and Finn's chat and learn new vocabulary

  • Sharing economy

    Sharing economy

    Episode 141127 / 27 Nov 2014

    Nowhere to park? How the sharing economy is changing the way we use our space

  • Can science fiction save the world?

    Can science fiction save the world?

    Episode 141120 / 20 Nov 2014

    How can science fiction help the world? Rob and Finn discuss a project which aims to inspire through stories of a bright future

  • Is eating meat killing our planet?

    Is eating meat killing our planet?

    Episode 141113 / 13 Nov 2014

    Why is eating meat bad news?

  • What makes a superhero?

    What makes a superhero?

    Episode 141106 / 06 Nov 2014

    Do real-life superheroes exist or are they just cartoon characters?

  • Cigarettes v e-cigarettes

    Cigarettes v e-cigarettes

    Episode 141030 / 30 Oct 2014

    Rob and Finn discuss the World Health Organisation's recommendations on e-cigarettes

  • The bitter taste of sugar

    The bitter taste of sugar

    Episode 141023 / 23 Oct 2014

    Should we eat less sugar? Listen to Rob and Neil and learn new vocabulary

  • How quickly can you learn English?

    How quickly can you learn English?

    Episode 141016 / 16 Oct 2014

    Is learning English getting easier? Find out what's new

  • Food waste

    Food waste

    Episode 141009 / 09 Oct 2014

    Why do we buy so much food and not eat it all? Learn more about food waste

  • Sleeping on the job

    Sleeping on the job

    Episode 141002 / 02 Oct 2014

    Is it right to sleep at work? Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of sleeping on the job.

  • The fame game

    The fame game

    Episode 140929 / 29 Sep 2014

    Is the way we see famous people a new thing? Learn about the first 'modern celebrity'.

  • Dealing with boredom

    Dealing with boredom

    Episode 140821 / 21 Aug 2014

    Bored? You're not alone. Rob and Finn discuss how to deal with boredom and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won't be bored!