GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Are you hooked on your cell phone? How many phone numbers can you dial without the help of your "contacts" list? When you look at your friends do you think they could make it without their cell phones? These are just some of the questions at the heart of what one Florida professor is researching: Are you addicted to technology?
Does that phone you own really own you? Next question: do you ever feel anxious if you haven't gotten a call or message in a while? Answers to questions like that fascinate Doctor Lisa Merlo at the University of Florida.
"Initially we starting looking at cell phones because people were talking about their, 'crack-berries,'" Dr. Merlo explained. "What we found is there are a number of individuals who really were saying that they felt uncomfortable if they didn't have their phones, if they forgot it at home they would drive back to get it even if it was 30 minutes away."
In the very near future, even that 30 minute drive back home won't leave you technology deprived.
"I'm from Detroit and we have the Detroit International Auto Show and one of the big things that was introduced this year is smart cars that allow you to post to Facebook via the car," Dr. Merlo told WINK.
Is this progress or a process that's getting us more and more hooked on a sense of "battery-powered belonging?"
At Christmas time video emerged of a woman texting in the mall. She didn't notice the water fountain and fell right in; but while her dignity drip-dries, some people are putting our "cell phone obsession" to use.
The federal government announced they'll roll out an emergency notification system on cell phones nationwide by April, since we're all apparently staring at them anyway.
Meanwhile, Dr. Merlo stops short of using the "a" word.
"Some of the hallmarks of addiction: are inability to control your use," she said.
Her research found that with cell phones, an inability to stop talking on the phone, or using it despite consequences, like a bill you can't afford or losing a job or failing a class could be a sign of a problem. But beyond just phones, this University of Florida research found technology is taking over some people's lives.
"So we find people who are spending all their time on Facebook or on their phone, or on their computer as opposed to actually going out with their friends in person, or even talking to them on their phone," Dr. Merlo shared. "A lot of kids-- they do that. They go home and play video games, they are on their phones constantly. If you are sitting at a dinner table, you'll realize that someone that you are sitting with might be texting and that takes away from the conversation."
Dr. Merlo attempts to explain how we got this way.
"I think that when cell phones were first introduced, the only people that had them were people that were wealthy, successful and typically had them for a 'quote unquote' important reason," she said.
Now, every call seems important.
There's a lot more to this study and what Dr. Merlo found is fascinating. You can take this quiz and see where you rate. Then let us know how you do on our Facebook page or on Twitter.
The following are 20 questions that Dr. Merlo has created to judge problematic cell phone use.
Answer each of these questions with either: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, or Strongly Agree.
While there is no number scale, the more questions you answer Strongly Agree and Agree to the higher your 'cell phone anxiety' or 'problematic cell phone' use could be.
1. When I decrease the amount of time spent using my cell phone I feel less satisfied.
2. I need more time using my cell phone to feel satisfied than I used to need.
3. When I stop using my cell phone, I get moody and irritable.
4. It would be very difficult, emotionally, to give up my cell phone.
5. The amount of time I spend using my cell phone keeps me from doing other important work.
6. I have thought in the past that it is not normal to spend as much time using a cell phone as I do.
7. I think I might be spending too much time using my cell phone.
8. People tell me I spend too much time using my cell phone.
9. When I am not using my cell phone, I am thinking about using it or planning the next time I can use it.
10. I feel anxious if I have not received a call or message in some time.
11. I have ignored the people I’m with in order to use my cell phone.
12. I have used my cell phone when I knew I should be doing work/schoolwork.
13. I have used my cell phone when I knew I should be sleeping.
14. When I stop using my cell phone because it is interfering with my life, I usually return to it.
15. I have gotten into trouble at work or school because of my cell phone use.
16. At times, I find myself using my cell phone instead of spending time with people who are important to me and want to spend time with me.
17. I have used my cell phone when I knew it was dangerous to do so.
18. I have almost caused an accident because of my cell phone use.
19. My cell phone use has caused me problems in a relationship.
20. I have continued to use my cell phone even when someone asked me to stop.
Now let us know how you did on our WINK News Facebook Fan Page.