For most Australians, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a completely unprecedented circumstance which is novel and life-changing. It’s safe to say that no event in recent history has affected us quite as profoundly and pervasively as what we’re dealing with today.
Not only does it remind us of our physical fragility, it also undermines our economic security, throws our daily routines upside-down, wreaks havoc on our plans and isolates us from our friends, neighbours and family.
It’s no doubt that our physical lives have been completely altered with the rise of COVID-19, but what about our everyday thinking and actions?
While diving into my third week of isolation, I’m catching myself having peculiar thought-processes while watching television.
For example, when I see two people go in for a handshake, I immediately shrink back and think of the germs they are exchanging, or when there’s a scene including people standing closely together, I always find myself wondering if they are keeping the appropriate 1.5 metres of social distancing.
We as a society are already changing our behaviours and thought-processes to accommodate the demands of COVID-19. It’s safe to say that we are now more aware of germs and the potential risks they carry.
But what about our mobile phones?
According to a Harvard study in 2012, handheld mobile phones have 10x more bacteria on them than the average toilet seat… we’ll give you a second to recover from that.
The study also found that mobile phones are dirtier than the bottom of your shoe or the inside of your dog’s food bowl. These studies reveal time and time again that our phones potentially carry disease-causing microbes and even fecal matter. Double gross.
So why are our phones so dirty?
Well, one of the primary reasons is our own behaviour. The average person checks their mobile phone approximately once every 12 minutes, or 80 times per day.
This means that our hands are constantly on our devices nonstop, and they are likely accompanying us on nearly every errand and activity we endure, perhaps even when we visit the toilet.
While you might think of yourself as a particularly clean person and a frequent hand-washer, your hands are actually one of your worst culprits.
These appendages are in use constantly, touching everything from door handles to cash to sink taps. Along the way, our hands are capable of collecting enormous amounts of germs. From the fingertips to the elbow, you’ll find an average of 2 and 10 million bacteria. Ew.
And you can’t trust other people to be clean either.
Research also shows that 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom. If you’re shaking hands with colleagues or touching something that anyone else has ever touched (basically, everything) there’s serious germ potential.
Suffice it to say, germs are abundant, and they’re going to end on your mobile phone.
A second reason that our phones are so dirty is the heat they produce. Warm environments are where bacteria thrive. Unfortunately, your phone has its own necessary heat-producing mechanisms, and you’re only adding to its warm environment by holding the device in your hands or storing it in your pockets. Those toasty atmospheres mean bacteria can grow and spread.
Your phone is a breeding ground for a wide variety of different organisms; one scientific study discovered roughly 7,000 types of bacteria in 51 smartphone samples.
Before you panic, it’s important to note that many of these bacteria are actually naturally occurring, good-for-us bacteria. Much of what is found on our phones is also what is found in our hands and mouths.
That same study revealed that 22% of bacterial families overlapped on fingers and phones. A doctor involved with the study said that mobile phones ‘carry our own personal biome,’ which is one way of looking at things.
But with the latest government restrictions, how are we able to keep not only ourselves germ-free, but our phones too?
Well, here are some tips to ensure you and your phone are kept clean and healthy:
- Don’t take your phone to the toilet and scroll for a while
- Always wash your hands for more than 15 seconds to ensure germs are killed
- Make sure you clean your phone’s surface every few days with a bacterial wipe
- Try to limit your phone use during quarantine
- Keep social distance from other people to limit the spread of not only COVID-19, but other germs too
So why not limit your phone use during quarantine by reading a book, painting a picture or even starting up that business you’ve always wanted to. Get creative, people, now you’ve got the spare time.
Yes, our everyday thoughts have changed due to the current circumstance we find ourselves in thanks to COVID-19, but why not use it to our advantage?
P.S. Clean your phone
Words by Anthony Graetz