‘Menthal’: The app that measures addiction to smartphones

Credit: Flickr

The “beep-beep” of a notification, the comic crash from a game, and the muffled vibration indicating a text: these digital sounds are the vital signs of life to many of us these days.

Researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany have created “Menthal” – an app to tell you how much time your smartphone takes up and on what.

Psychologist Christian Montag hopes it will help us deal with a modern plague.

Metro: What appalling behavior are we cultivating through smartphones?

Montag: We’re not sure if we can diagnose an addiction yet, but we want to understand how it influences our culture and wellbeing. This is a live discussion and this will provide data. We are seeking patterns in areas such as tolerance development and withdrawal.

What makes you think we’re so bad?

We did a small study of 50 participants that gave them the opportunity to monitor their own behavior, because a lot of it is unconscious – you just click without being aware. We found that smartphones were activated every 12 minutes, which shows preoccupation, and we found from anecdotes that people felt a major gap when they were without the phone.

Who is most vulnerable?

Often people who are less satisfied or with lower self-esteem became prone to addiction-like behavior.

You say WhatsApp typically accounts for 15 percent of use. Should some apps come with health warnings?

We are not enemies of technology and obviously instant messaging services have big advantages. But some people only use social networks and don’t meet friends in real life and that’s a problem.

How would you treat them?

For extreme forms, you should see an addiction specialist. There are tricks: most people use their smartphone as a watch, so start wearing a watch and you can cut use by half. Try to keep the phone out of your hand as it will distract you.

Is there a problem with creating a smartphone app to help smartphone overuse?

At this point, we are thinking the first step is to produce numbers that function as mirror, and all our feedback is people saying, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize I was so bad.’ And that helps them to get it down.


'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…


British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…


DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.


Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.


‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…


Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

MUSIC Huun Huur Tu Friday, 8 p.m. First Church in Cambridge 11 Garden St., Cambridge $28, 617-876-4275 www.worldmusic.org This group comes from the tiny nation…


TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…


2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version


MLB video highlights: Red Sox top Yankees, 5-1

John Lackey shines, Pineda ejected in Red Sox win


Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston…

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston greedy for more dominance


Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.


Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.


What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.


Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.


Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."