Facebook, self-diagnosis and snooping: how Irish people use their smartphones

10 Oct 2013

A recent survey by mobile operator Meteor reveals Ireland’s growing smartphone addiction, with people using phones to replace visits to the doctor and as a social crutch. There’s also a significant number of nosy parkers among us that will snoop on someone else’s phone when they’re not looking.

The survey of 803 smartphone users was conducted by Empathy Research on behalf of Meteor last month.


Two-fifths of those surveyed admitted to checking their smartphones more than 10 times a day, and Facebook ranked as the nation’s No 1 one app, with 33pc putting it in pole position. One-fifth of those surveyed also admitted to using Facebook to check up on an ex.

A whopping 80pc said they use their smartphones as a social crutch to avoid boredom or have something to do when waiting for someone, while 10pc confessed clinging to their smartphone to stop strangers from making conversation.

Smartphones have also started to replace some users’ GPs, with 30pc saying they have self-diagnosed an illness by looking up their symptoms on their precious device. Women self-diagnose this way more than men, with 35pc doing so compared to 25pc of men. But the biggest demographic playing doctor was the 18-24 age group, of which 54pc use their phone to replace a doctor’s advice.

Suspicious minds

Another common trait in this age group is checking a partner’s smartphone for texts, photos and dialled numbers. Half of those aged 18-24 admitted to doing so, compared to 32pc committing this act overall.

And it’s not just significant others that are being spyed on. Half of women surveyed had secretly checked someone else’s phone, as had 40pc of men.

Some are wary of sneaky snoopers, though, and 52pc of men have cleared their browsing history, compared to 34pc of women.

An open-ended question asking for people’s most embarrassing smartphone-related incidents resulted in 4pc telling tales of dropping smartphones down the toilet – one of which was a shared office phone – while 15pc were mortified when they accidentally sent an incriminating text to the wrong person.

Faster connectivity to ease frustration

The Meteor survey came ahead of the launch of Ireland’s first 4G service as part of a €330m mobile investment by company owner Eircom. A clear majority (80pc) of those surveyed correctly identified what 4G is, while 65pc said a phone with five times faster browsing would be a tempting purchase.

Faster mobile connectivity could put an end to the ‘spinning wheel of death’ – that is, the spinning icon that tells you content is buffering or slowly loading – which leaves 43pc of users feeling angry and frustrated, and one-quarter tempted to throw their phone across the room. This is the same violent frustration experienced by users of slow computers.

Meteor’s 4G coverage is currently available in Dublin, Carlow and Athlone. The network plans to reach more than 43pc population coverage by year-end, with development then slowing to reach 50pc by June 2014.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.