It’s like some Orwellian nightmare – the mindless masses shuffling through the landscape, heads down, oblivious to their surroundings or their neighbours. Their blank faces occasionally raising a faux smile for a selfie.
Those disconnected Tube minutes are the longest of the day as Facebook posts go unread and kittens go unwatched.
Forget the sun glinting off the Thames, an expanse of dewy parkland, a moorhen in Millwall Dock making a nest out of plastic bags – the digital screen is where it’s at.
But trying – and failing – to stay up-to-the-minute has its price. New research has indicated that smartphone addicts are more anxious and have lower self-esteem than those who take in the nature that surrounds them. Forget the clouds, it’s all about The Cloud.
Researchers at the University of Derby revealed that people who are in touch with nature use their phone half as much each day, have significantly higher self-esteem, are significantly more conscientious, emotionally stable and open to new experiences.
The survey also showed that smartphone addicts take seven times more selfies and are less sociable than nature lovers.
Lead researcher Dr Miles Richardson said: “Nature connectedness isn’t about going back to some halcyon days where we lived in harmony with nature. It’s about realising our place in a wider ecology here and now. Technology must play a role in that.
“The study showed that those more connected to their phones had a latent interest in nature through taking photos of it. Smartphones can foster that interest as we showed with our Three Good Things In Nature research – people prompted to note down good things in nature each day for five days showed a sustained increase in connection with nature.”
The survey revealed that people who were more connected with nature used their phone significantly less (two hours 15 minutes a day compared to four hours eight minutes), took 87% fewer selfies and took 320% more pictures of nature.
It showed that people who used their phones more were 33% more anxious and had a greater relationship with their phones than nature.
The research follows on from a pioneering study into smartphone addiction in March 2015, co-authored by Dr Zaheer Hussain, lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, which revealed that 13% of participants in the study were addicted to their phones, with the average user spending 3.6 hours per day on their device.
The latest smartphone research will be presented at a conference, called Nature Connections 2016, on Wednesday (June 15) at the University of Derby.
Gwen Potter, countryside manager for the National Trust on the Northumberland Coast, said: “Screens can still offer us new ways to connect with wildlife but if people don’t care about nature, they won’t want to protect it.
“At a time when everything from common seals to curlew are under threat, what’s more useful: your selfie or your relationship with nature?”
The Wildlife Trusts , recently launched this year’s 30 Days Wild – a campaign to get people to do something connected to nature every day in June.
The trust’s Adam Cormack said: “Phones can be useful for recording and photographing wildlife and sharing those experiences but time away from screens can help us to immerse ourselves more fully in nature.
“People who took part in The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild campaign last year felt healthier, happier and more connected to nature. Some people used their phones a lot while others didn’t at all.”