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Communication breakdown

Far more people in the world now have access to mobile phones than to working toilets.

August 31st, 2016

"We clutch our phones to show that we do know at least one other person--that we might look solitary but we have connections." -- Margaret Heffernan, from DYSCONNECTED: Isolated by Our Mobile Devices

And that might not be a good thing. We could be entering a new phase of mankind, a “dysconnected” dystopia.

“We are lonely but fearful of intimacy,” says sociologist Sherry Turkle.  “Digital connections may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.”

The American composer Libby Larsen has suggested the great myth of our times is that technology is communication.

“Surfing, clicking, texting, sharing, friending and liking,” says Anton Scamvougeras, “have arguably taken the place of looking, seeing, listening, talking, thinking and just plain doing nothing, hanging out or being bored.

“Are we losing the capacity for quiet solitude? Are we filling all previously-empty spaces in our days with electronic ‘busy-ness’? Have online ‘friends’ taken the place of the other sort? Have second lives replaced our first? And, if this is the case, should it be cause for concern?”

Scamvougeras dysconnected p117 thinkerAnton Scamvougeras’ collection of 75 pen & ink illustrations depicting humans isolated by their person technology, Dysconnected: Isolated by our Mobile Devices  (Sandhill $19.95) provides matching quotes, opinions and facts, as well as startling stats about phone use.

Included are numerous quotes from futurist author William Gibson. All are sobering. “It’s easier to desire and pursue the attention of tens of millions of total strangers,” he wrote in his novel, Idoru, “than it is to accept the l0ve and loyalty of the people closest to us.”

Anton Scamvougeras was born in Cape Town, South Africa, moved to Canada in 1987, and lived in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Southern Ontario, before settling in British Columbia. He is a physician and artist. His visual art work attempts to deal with questions of identity and place. He lives in Vancouver with his wife, Margot, and their three children. He uses his cell phone at least 20 times a day.

Here here are “PHONE FACTS” from his book.


Earth’s population: 7.4 billion people

People with access to mobile phones: 6 billion 1

People with access to working toilets: 4.5 billion 1

The number of active mobile devices and human beings crossed at 7.19 billion 2

Mobile devices are multiplying five times faster than humans 2

64% of Americans own a smartphone 3

Smartphone owners spend an average of 2 hours per day using their phones 4

46% of American cell phone owners say that it is something they “couldn’t live without” 3

95% of smartphone users have used their phones during social gatherings 4

70% used their phones while working 4

93% of smartphone owners use their phones to avoid being bored 3

47% use their phone to avoid interacting with the people around them 3

10% admitted to checking their phones during sex 4

57% reported feeling “distracted” thanks to their phone 3

36% reported that their phone made them feel “frustrated” 3

35% check the web before getting out of bed 19

Number of texts sent or received by an ave. 13-17 yr old girl, in a month, in 2012:  4000  (ave. one every 7 min.) 19


Scamvougeras1 dysconnected p31 dinner

“No one’s forcing you to do this. You willingly tie yourself to these leashes. And you willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on basic human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking at you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at a screen!” — Dave Eggers, author, in his novel, The Circle.

54% of children felt that their parents checked their devices too often 5

77% of parents feel their teens get distracted by devices 6

41% of teens feel their parents get distracted by devices 6

Teens watched TV (51%), used social media (50%), and texted (60%) while doing homework 7

Most teens do not feel that multitasking harms the quality of their work 7

59% of parents of 0- to 8-year- olds said they were not worried about their children becoming addicted to new interactive technologies 9

Parents who were highly absorbed in their devices tended to be more harsh when dealing with children’s misbehaviour 8

Children between the ages of 13 and 17 preferred face-to-face communication over all technological means of communication, because it was perceived to be more fun and because they could understand people better in person 10

The U.S. National Safety Council found that the use of cell phones causes 26% of U.S. car accidents 11

Reaching for a cellphone, dialing, or texting while driving increases crash risk by a factor of three. 17

30% of US pedestrians use distracting personal technology while crossing at high-risk intersections 12

After a 15-year old girl was killed by a tram while texting, the city of Augsburg, Germany, installed traffic lights embedded in the pavement designed to alert pedestrians looking down at their phones. 14

A pedestrian sidewalk lane reserved for heavy users of mobile devices, in the city of Chongqing, China, appears to have failed because most cell-phone users didn’t notice the new lane. 15

Sophie Ryder’s 20-foot sculpture ‘The Kiss’, depicting two clasped hands, had to be moved from it’s position arching over a path near Salisbury Cathedral, England, because people distracted by their cell-phones were walking into it. 16

Students experience significantly higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when smartphone alerts were turned on 4

Students demonstrated reduced motor task abilities when their own or another person’s cell phone was visible to them 13

Scamvougeras dysconnected p37 selfie

“We love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.” — Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor

Students in a lecture who were not using their mobile phones wrote down 62% more information in notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their  mobile phones. 18


High frequency of mobile phone use is associated with disturbed sleep 20

The longer a teenager spent looking at an electronic screen before going to bed, the worse quality sleep they were likely to have 21

‘Text-neck’ or ‘tech-neck’ is a condition that results from constantly looking down at handheld technology.  22

Cases of near-sightedness have risen 35 percent since the advent of smartphones. 22

Too much screen time can lead to dry eyes. “It causes a decreased blink rate. People just aren’t blinking enough.” 22


  1. ‘More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets, U.N. Study Shows’, Yue Wang, TIME, 25 March 2013
  2. ‘There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world’, Zachary Davies Boren, The Independent, 7 October 2014
  3. ‘The Smartphone Difference’, Pew Research Center, April, 2015
  4. ‘Study: Smartphone alerts increase inattention – and hyperactivity’, Fariss Samarrai, UVA Today, University of Virginia, 9 May 2016
  5. ‘The AVG 2015 digital diaries’, AVG Technologies. (2015).
  6. Felt, L. J. & Robb, M. B. (2016). Technology addiction: Concern, controversy, and finding balance. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  7. Common Sense Media. (2015). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  8. Radesky, J. S., et al. (2014). Patterns of mobile device use by caregivers and children during meals in fast food restaurants. Pediatrics, 133(4), e843–e849.
  9. Wartella, E., Rideout, V., Lauricella, A. & Connell, S. (2013). Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology. Report for the Center on Media and Human Development School of Communication Northwestern University.
  10. Common Sense Media. (2012). Social media, social life: How teens view their digital lives. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  11. ‘Cellphone use causes over 1 in 4 car accidents’, Gabrielle Kratas, USA Today, 28 March 2014
  12. ‘Impact of social and technological distraction on pedestrian crossing behaviour: an observational study’, L.L.Thompson et al, Inj Prev 2013;19:232-237
  13. ‘How Your Cell Phone Distracts You Even When You’re Not Using It’, Justin Worland, TIME, 4 December, 2014
  14. ‘This city embedded traffic lights in the sidewalks so that smartphone users don’t have to look up’, Rick Noack, Washington Post, 25 April 2016
  15. ‘A Chinese city is asking smartphone users to walk in their own sidewalk lane’, Rick Noack, Washington Post, 15 Sept 2014
  16. ‘Put away your phone and enjoy the world around you’, Michael Henderson, The Telegraph, 21 February, 2016
  17. Fitch, G. A. et al. (2013, April). The impact of hand-held and hands-free cell phone use on driving performance and safety-critical event risk. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  18. Kuznekoff. J. H. and Titsworth, S. (2013). The impact of mobile phone usage on student learning. Communication Education, 62 (3), 233-252.
  19. Joe Kraus speech, ‘Slow Tech’, TED among Friends, 19 April 2012
  20. ‘ICT use and mental health in young adults’, Sara Thomée (2012, University of Gothenburg Press)
  21. ‘Too much exposure to smartphone screens ruins your sleep’, Charlie Cooper, Independent, 2 Feb 2015
  22. ‘Techitis: Constantly using Smartphones Causing Widespread Health Problems’, Kym Gable, CBS Pittsburgh, 19 May 2016

978-0-9952056-0-4 /

This book is also available to indivduals via

One Response to “Communication breakdown”

  1. If this man is a physician then he should be aware of the many studies linking heavy cellphone use with glioma tumours. At 20 times a day that puts him at high risk. All technology comes with a price.

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