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Close up of a person using a mobile phone

Phone addiction: Mental health and inner lives

9 May, 2019
Venue: The Old Rum Store, Chippendale

Most of us check our phone 85 times a day.

We’re constantly checking: on the bus, at the gym, during meetings, watching TV, at the beach, out at dinner, in bed. It’s even common to check while speaking to someone. A constant flow of updates and notifications vie for our limited attention. 

And so we’re increasingly … distracted. It’s harder to concentrate on a single task from beginning to end. Not multitasking makes us feel uneasy. Nomophobia is a thing.

It wasn’t meant to be like this.

Smartphones were designed to make our lives simpler. Surveying their impact on contemporary life, one can argue they’ve done the opposite.

Tracked by ubiquitous marketing campaigns, bombarded by endless streams of information, and seduced into reducing the complexity of our lived experience into transient social media content, are our inner lives at hazard? 

With our experts, we’ll take some time out to ponder what might be lost in the trade-off for all this convenience and connectivity and ask: What are our phones doing to our heads and hearts?


  • Students/Staff — $15  
  • Alumni — $20 
  • Friends — $25 

*ticket prices include drinks and catering

Our experts

Dr Jolynna Sinanan, Digital Media and Ethnography

Dr Jolynna Sinanan
Digital Media and Ethnography


I am an anthropologist who specialises in digital media, family relationships and mobile livelihoods and over the years I have undertaken fieldwork in Cambodia, Trinidad, Australia and Fiji. My work involves trying to understand how people understand themselves from different cultural perspectives, which has helped me grapple with my own heritages.

I hope that looking at the granularities of mobile and social media in everyday life will inform the ways we think about the relationship we have with our phones and its impact on our interior worlds and the way we tackle big picture problems in our media futures.

Dr Andrew Campbell, e-Mental Health, Cyberpsychology

Dr Andrew Campbell
e-Mental Health and Cyberpsychology


I received my PhD from The University of Sydney in 2003 after researching the area of why people talk to strangers online about their most personal secrets and fears. I wanted to be a Cyberpsychologist in order to understand how technology is changing the ways humans interact and, hopefully, improve their lives. I’ve been researching and teaching in Cyberpsychology, eMental Health and Human Development for the past 20 years and have worked as a Registered Child and Adolescent Psychologist for over 10 years. I’m fortunate to be regularly invited by the media to speak on how technology impacts human behaviour and is changing society – for better or worse!

My research work on cyberpsychology has featured on ABC’s 7:30 Report, Channel 7’s Morning Show and on various TV shows internationally. Currently, I am the lead academic in the Cyberpsychology Research Group at The University of Sydney, the first formal research group of its kind in Australasia.

Andrew is a graduate of the University of Sydney (BA(1998) MAppSc(BehavHlthSc)(2000) CertEdStud(2008) Ph.D.(Health Sciences)(2003)).

Associate Professor Anik Waldow, Philosophy

Associate Professor Anik Waldow

My interest in questions of personal identity has long revolved around the idea that the self is elusive and can sometimes even vanish. But where are our selves when we engage with Instagram, Facebook & Co. through our ever-present phones? We walk without actually being on the street. We go out to have dinner, chatting to people who are not really there. I want to better understand how our presence in virtual space connects with our existence as embodied persons in the here and now. Phones provide permanent access to the infinite realms of virtual reality. Being connected thus becomes a defining feature of the self and threatens to eliminate the sphere of the inner “I”.

Banner image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash