The smartphone is arguably the greatest invention since the wheel. I never cease to be impressed by how much one can do with this tiny handheld device. It’s a flashlight, a radio, a TV and a movie screen. A browser, a book, a Rolodex and a notepad. A camera, a newspaper, a GPS and a clock. It connects us to social media, performs job searches and monitors our health and our homes. It’s a photo editor, a level, a dictionary and a voice recorder. It’s a weather radio, a meal finder, a payment processor and a tape measure. It’s even a remote control, a shopping cart and a ride hailer. It’s an emergency beacon, a nooky finder, a language teacher and a calculator. It can unlock your car door and sound the alarm. For some people it even starts the car! It gives us our daily horoscopes, keeps us connected to our businesses and blogs, oh…and it’s a telephone, too. Someday, it will probably control our self-driving cars.
With all that going for it, why would I want you to put your smartphone away and go back to the old flip phone?
I’ll give you 4 great reasons:
- Smartphones are a giant time suck
I don’t know about you, but I spend far too much time on my phone. I have a regular rotation of checking each of my social media accounts, then Zillow, then to the stock market app, then email where I find 27 new blog posts to read, then to see what’s fabulous on Kickstarter, then back to Facebook where I start the cycle all over again so I don’t miss something new. For me, this compulsion was unprecedented before the smartphone. I was healthy, active and extremely alert. You couldn’t get me to sit down for a-nee-thing, except maybe a good Tom Hanks movie. Now I feel like I’m spending all my free time staring into my palm. It’s really quite pathetic (and my butt is getting bigger).
I read an article claiming that people spend an average of 40 minutes a day on Facebook.
- Constant notifications
Our phones have us on a dopamine drip. I don’t know about you, but I get a little bump of ecstasy every time my phone vibrates. On the rare occasions it doesn’t beep or vibrate, I’m checking it to make sure it’s not dead. I swear I can hardly hold a conversation without checking it eighteen times. On that, I know I’m not alone.
I’m pretty sure it’s contributing to ADD.
It’s not just notifications that threaten to fracture our attention. It’s the constant barrage of ads and a persistent newsfeed. A lot of us switched to Netflix from cable to avoid commercials, but there they are right in the palm of our hands like little bags of hot kernels popping all over our screens.
- They’re making us stupid
Thanks to our increasing reliance on Google, we have no incentive to memorize the answers to our questions because when we forget, we can just ask Google again.
Forget spelling, too. Autocorrect and autofill have ripped that ability right from our executive centers. Memorization of any kind, really, has taken leave. Phone numbers, last names and addresses – all gone. Remember when we used to have dozens of phone numbers memorized when we had to rotary dial each digit? Now, I barely remember my own phone number.
- It’s compromising our health
Headaches. Eye strain. Probably some sort of radiation poisoning. And…depression.
Depression? From a phone? Yes! A recent study by the University of Illinois linked heavy cell phone use to both anxiety and depression. It makes sense when you think about it: we’re literally addicted to our phones. Every addiction eventually results in a dampening of its initial high, followed by aggressive consumption to achieve a new high. We’re getting sucked in deeper and deeper, but getting less out of it.
And now that we can compare every detail of our lives to our peers’ (often embellished) social media accounts…well, it’s a recipe for depression.
As amazing as the smartphone is, it works too hard to dictate our time, rob us of our freedom and hold us in rapture. I, for one, think it’s time to lift our heads, reengage our brains and rejoin the natural world.