Smartphones are evolving at a rate that is beyond belief, coming out in the form of curved displays, changing the way we make payments, diagnosing illnesses, and keeping us connected, and giving us access to the latest news and info available online. There are now more than 1 billion smartphone users in the world and the numbers are still rising.
However, there’s a negative influence that smartphones have introduced into our lives. It has taken over our lives so much that we cannot put it down long enough to appreciate the world around us anymore.
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It puts us in an instant gratification mode. If there is an alert, or a notification, it is the first thing we tend to, then on to the next social network feed, the next email, the next tweet etc. We have our eyes stuck to the screen, our heads crouched down while on the bus, in class, at work, and even during meals.
We are no longer in control. Instead, we have a tech addiction that puts smartphones in control of us. Let’s take a look at how smartphones have interrupted our lives in more ways than one.
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We Can’t Live Without It
"Wallet, check. House keys, check. Smartphone, check." Checking that these 3 things are in my pocket before leaving home or the coffee shop has been a routine of mine for a long time. I assume it is the same for many other users (which would explain the plentiful doormat designs and wall stickers that remind you of this).
And although missing any one of the above will make anyone’s heart skip a beat, every time we sit down to a meal, we’d almost always take out only the smartphone for a quick check, message, tap or tweet. We may tell ourselves and everyone else that we need the smartphone with us for emergencies, but the truth is, having a meal without it has become the exception instead of the norm.
In fact, we’d sooner leave behind our wallets than our smartphones because we are too busy checking our phones wherever we go (if this happens to you often, we suggest the 2-in-1 phone and wallet combos or minimalist wallets).
Married To Smartphones
Even more extreme are those who check the smartphone before bed, and also first thing in the morning when they open their eyes. The fear of something happening online while they were sleeping compels them to check every 5 minutes, even though experience would tell them that nothing big ever happens.
On a side note, do try to charge your phones far away from where you sleep. You never know when it will explode right next to you.
We Lose Focus Of What’s Important
While smartphones can be helpful in a variety of things e.g. taking notes in class or documenting our life experiences through pictures, we almost always choose to be less productive with our devices. We distract ourselves with games, videos, music and social media feeds. Social notifications like a new comment, a new Like on your photos, or a chat prompt, make us lose sight of what is right in front of us, urging us to instead reply or act upon the notification.
It is all fun and games until someone crashes a car.
Life-Threatening Smartphone Use
Personal safety takes a back seat (pun intended) when it comes to smartphone usage while driving. It’s now common to see public service announcements or news reports of accidents caused by smartphone use while behind the wheel.
In Japan, there’s even a campaign to spread awareness of ‘smartphone walking’ accidents – involving smartphones, very distracted users and train platform accidents (deadly combo).
And we’re not referring to taking an important call with the help of earphones and bluetooth. We’re referring to texting, tweeting, Facebook-ing, upvoting and taking selfies, while the car is still moving. Not having your full attention on what is on the road in front of you is a recipe for an accident, some say almost as bad as drunk driving.
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The increased use of smartphones has probably reduced human interaction, affecting more than just verbal communication. It has caused us to unwittingly sever ties with our loved ones. Conversations and fights are taken to Facebook instead of being tended to face-to-face and in a calm environment. Meals are taken in complete silence, apart from sounds of keyboard tapping and social alerts.
Dissatisfaction of a service or product is taken to a blog or review site. We have been reduced to becoming complaint-generators, instead of problem solvers, which is ironic, considering how much longer we are "communicating with one another" online. In July 2012, 121 billion minutes (230,060 years) were spent on social media sites in the U.S. alone!
Disconnecting From Work
Completely removing ourselves from work is also getting difficult these days. It’s common for workgroups to have group chats in messaging apps to talk about work 24 hours a day. Discussions through emails give the impression that the work discussed should be completed just as fast. Everyone demands answers almost as immediately as their email reaches your inbox.
In a perverted twist of social convenience through smartphone apps and constant connectivity, this has come full circle to haunt us. We can no longer keep up with what our digitally-powered jobs’ need of us.
What We Can Do About It
But all is not lost. The most sensible way to overcome all these problems is to simply put the device away when there is no need for it. You can turn off notifications from unnecessary apps that don’t require you to take immediate action. Another way is to set special notifications that tell you how important that message is, and whether a response is required immediately, or if it could wait. You can also try the Do Not Disturb mode (on the iPhone).
When charging your device, do it far away from where you rest or sleep. Allow yourself to be disconnected from the Internet or run a complete tech detox during the weekends or when work has caught up with you.
Get Your Friends In On It
Here is a game you may have heard about: have everyone you are meeting up with for drinks, put their phone in the middle of the table and not touch it till it’s time to leave. Whoever does so first, pays for the next round of drinks.
It is a simple game to get everyone to communicate with each other instead of their phones, and that meet-up can actually (finally) get you to reconnect with friends and family, for real.
At the end of the day, we need to be the masters of our smartphones, and not depend on it so much to make sense of this world (online and off). There is more to life than a retweet, selfie or a Like. And if you happen to find it boring to live life without your smartphone, perhaps this is a wake-up call to reclaim a life that is independent of tech and geared towards true happiness.