Gadget Habits: Phone addiction among Britain’s most irritating quirks

4 December 2016

  • Behavioural research shows that technology has replaced more traditional bad habits
  • 56% have three or more annoying habits – from swearing to using phones at the dinner table
  • But new tech also encourages positive habits, such as checking balances regularly

Compulsive mobile phone use has been highlighted in a new poll which places ‘gadget habits’ in the same league as bad manners and swearing.

The study1, which was carried out to determine the effect of technology on human behaviour, highlights a number of negative and positive quirks that affect Brits, with many of these relating to gadgets and innovations rather than traditional habits.

Traditional vs New Habits

Some 56 per cent of Brits claim to have more than three bad habits. Amongst the top five worst traits someone could have, according to the poll, are a mixture of traditional and new habits enabled by technology. These included:

  • Bad manners (51%)
  • Checking phone all the time (40%)
  • Smoking (38%)
  • Checking mobile phone at the dinner table (37%)
  • Swearing (36%)

Other habits seen as amongst the worst included using a phone whilst walking (29%), biting fingernails (26%) and oversharing on social media (23%).

Londoners are five times more likely to admit having bad manners than those in the West Midlands (10% vs 2%). They are also most likely to check their phones, with a fifth (22%) admitting the habit. This compares with just 12 per cent of those living in Northern Ireland, the lowest percentage in the UK.

As well as bad habits, the survey also reveals the habits which the nation most admires. The top three included exercise (21%), good money management (17%) and a good work / life balance (15%).

Positive Gadget Habits

Not all habits are bad and with the rise of new technology, more people than ever are able to use devices – whether phones, tablets or computers – to access services. This has had a major impact on the development of habits. The top five positive tech habits are:

  • Shopping online (47%)
  • Using mobile banking (38%)
  • Checking balances regularly (34%)
  • Checking social media everyday (28%)
  • Dual screening – multitasking using two devices (28%)

However, due to their convenience, these new habits are also the hardest to give up, with online shopping (31%), checking social media throughout the day (26%) and checking balances each day (19%) all amongst the top ten hardest habits to shake.

Habit Forming

According to the Pool Brits felt that it took just 11 times of doing something before it became a habit.

When looking at habit forming, the average Brit identified the key influences of picking up a new habit as being self-learnt behaviour (52%), something that makes life easier (41%) and something which makes life more convenient (40%). Interestingly, less than one in ten (8%) admitted to allowing celebrity behaviour to have an impact on their habit forming.

Paul Horlock, Head of Payments, Nationwide Building Society, commented: “We all have habits, good and bad, and it is interesting to see how new technology is transforming behaviour. It’s not surprising that shopping online was identified as a top tech habit, and amongst the hardest to give up – on Black Friday we saw customers spend around £104,000 a minute, and around half of all transactions were completed online. We would expect similar patterns in the run up to Christmas.

“We wanted to examine what formed habits, as I’m sure many of us have now instinctively gone to ‘tap and pay’ in a shop, a habit formed by millions of people across the country in such a short time. The research identified key drivers to forming a new habit as making life easier and more convenient, and this is why Nationwide is investing in bringing new payment technologies, from contactless, to Paym and mobile payments to our members.”

Commenting on the findings, Psychologist, Dr Sue Stebbings said: “I was surprised by the number of times people believe they must do things before they become a habit because both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ habits can be formed with less repetition than this if behaviours involve some form of positive reward.

“Many people are actually unaware of the fact that they are forming habits because habits can be developed subconsciously before they’ve even realised. When it comes to using financial technology for example, certain apps and gadgets can make things so quick and convenient when it comes to purchasing, checking balances or settling bills, that habits can be formed quite quickly. This is simply because they are so easy and intuitive to use and make life much simpler, so these habits are readily adopted. Anything that involves immediate and gratifying rewards are more likely to become a habitual part of daily life.”

Nationwide is committed to providing a range of quick, easy and secure ways for customers to pay and this choice is important because, for customers, payments are more than a transaction – they are paying a friend for your share of the curry on a Friday night through Paym or that regular saving towards your dream car via a Standing Order. Nationwide provides a range of payment methods that make life as easy and as convenient as possible – more information is available here

Notes to Editor:

1 The research was undertaken by Atomik Research, on a representative sample of 2000 UK respondents aged 18+ - in accordance with MRS guidelines and regulations.

Fieldwork: 18 – 24 November
Sample: general population
Methodology: Online Survey

Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employees MRS certified researchers and abide to MRS code.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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