Why You Tell Your Phone All Your Secrets

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What's weird about the iPhone is that it was first released in 2007 — not that long ago in objective time, but an epoch in internet ages. Our relationships with our smartphones has changed everything about the ways in which we engage with the world and each other. Before 2007, truth serum wasn't much more than a plot device in spy thrillers, but now, it's more or less a real thing.


That's how researchers at the University of Pennsylvania put it in a new study released last month. It turns out that when we're using smartphones, we become more willing to disclose personal facts about ourselves than when we're on a desktop computer. There are a couple of reasons for this: For one, because a smartphone is comparatively small, we actually tend to focus more on typing or tweeting than we normally would, and that focus crowds out our judgment about what we're typing, from time to time.

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We also tend to write in the first person when we use a smartphone, whether it's on social media or just texting a friend or family member. That contributes to the way we feel about phones in general. "Because our smartphones are with us all of the time and perform so many vital functions in our lives, they often serve as 'adult pacifiers' that bring feelings of comfort to their owners," said coauthor Shiri Melamud. "Similarly, when writing on our phones, we tend to feel that we are in a comfortable 'safe zone.' As a consequence, we are more willing to open up about ourselves."


If you're feeling too tenderly about your smartphone, it could be a sign of addition. This study might just be one more good reason to put it down and walk away for a bit.