Millennials would rather share a toothbrush than their smartphone

The #newnormal? O2 Mobile Life Report reveals the nation’s most intimate relationship is now with our mobile devices.

The millennial generation would rather allow a friend to share their toothbrush or indeed their bed than allow them to use their mobile phone, according to the O2 Mobile Life Report.

Fewer than one in twenty (4.5%) of those aged between 18 and 24 would allow a close friend access to their smartphone according to the most comprehensive research ever undertaken by O2 as it launches a debate on the #newnormal when it comes to phone use.

Almost one in ten (9%) would allow a friend to share their toothbrush – in spite of the millions of bacteria that are likely to inhabit it. One in six (15%) would allow a friend to share their bed and a quarter would share their clothes. Only the sharing of a bath came lower – although 2% (or just under a million people across the country as a whole) would still be willing to do so.

The research reveals the intimate nature of the relationships we’ve developed with our phones – from the personal information that we store through to the way we communicate on them. This shows in our reluctance to let our phones out of our sight, from the moment we wake up to when we go to bed. Over one in ten people aged between 18 and 24 (11%) say they drop off holding their handset close on a nightly basis. What’s more, one in three (29%) of 18 to 24 year olds say they couldn’t be without their phone for a single day.

However, this is not a habit confined to the young as the study found that across the population as a whole, one in five (19%) couldn’t last a day without their phone. A similar proportion (20%) admit they have fallen asleep with their phone in their hands at some point and if they find themselves sitting on their own during the day, 4 out of 5 (80%) will reach for their phones to keep them occupied.

The report goes on to reveal that the mobile phone is capable of making us feel better about ourselves., with one in five of all Britons (21%) believing they are more confident on the phone and 14% saying the device makes them funnier. Furthermore 13% feel that they better express themselves when on the phone compared to when they are talking to someone face to face.

We’ve become so close with our phones that now nearly one in 10 (9%) of 18-24 year olds name their phone as their best friend and a quarter (26%) would even describe their gadget as ‘an extra limb’. For 7% of the population, their relationship with their phone is even described as ‘a lifeline’.

Asked about why they wouldn’t share their phone, the research found that allowing access to personal messages was the number one reason for privacy (cited by 43% of those asked). Access to personal photographs was another cause for concern (41%) while a quarter (25%) admitted that they feared that rude messages about friends, family members or colleagues would incriminate. A further one in five (18%) said they were likely to have a sext or two saved.

Nina Bibby, Marketing and Consumer Director, from O2 said:

“Our research reveals that for everyone, but especially the younger generation, our mobile phones have almost become extensions of ourselves. They have become an essential part of our everyday lives and more fundamental than ever before. They influence how we think, feel and behave and are now the place where some of our most personal memories are kept.

At O2 we understand that your phone is far more than a phone. It’s why we give our customers more ways to enjoy their phones. More help, more flexibility and more connectivity to the people and things they love.”

Jo Hemmings, Behavioural Psychologist said:

“We’re more emotionally – and physically – attached to our mobile phones than we ever have been before because they play an integral part of our lives. For the younger generation, it’s almost unsurprising that they’d prefer to share their toothbrush than their phone. Millennials have grown up with tech at their fingertips and have been reliably and relentlessly storing every element of their lives on their devices since they could pick them up.

Our smartphones have become a vessel for all of our innermost thoughts, secrets and feelings – so of course we wouldn’t want to lend them to a friend! With that level of intimacy stored on our mobiles, what’s a few germs on a toothbrush compared to the risk of your private life falling into the wrong hands…”

The O2 Mobile Life Report was commissioned by O2 as part of its #newnormal campaign which aims to open a debate about the nation’s relationships with their phones.  In just ten years, smartphones have become fundamental to our lives and are now in the pockets of two thirds of UK adults.

Alongside the report, O2 is working with documentary filmmaker Stevan Riley, to create three short films exploring different aspects of people’s relationship with their phones and attitudes and opinions around mobile technology in 2016.

Riley has interviewed hundreds of people to get real soundbites from a broad spectrum of society. The films are designed to spark debate and open the conversation about our own personal #newnormal.

To see the films and find out more about the campaign, visit o2.co.uk/newnormal