Let me start by saying that I don’t have a smartphone, but I probably will in the future. This is not a rant against smartphones, or a call for everyone to go back to Nokia 6070s. I think smartphones are basically awesome and I have nothing against the basic idea of replacing our phones with mini-computers.
My problem starts when the lines between fun and work, between alone and together, between communication and confusion – become blurred. I feel that many people are losing the ability to NOT use their phones, even when it’s not the best thing they could be doing at the moment. I feel that sometimes, surprisingly, communication using smartphones can become harder instead of easier, especially with people who are less computer-literate. And let’s face it, at this rate, most of them will have smartphones by the end of the year. So why do I think we might be too addicted to our phones?
E-mails are increasingly becoming a huge part of our lives. We get more and more of them every year, and a growing amount of our communication – both personal and work-related – is being done through e-mails.
Smartphones made it easier than ever before to access these e-mails everywhere. Whether you’re on the bus, in bed, in line at the supermarket or at the bar with your friends – your e-mails are right there and available to you and this can definitely be a problem. I can’t begin to count the times I was hanging out with someone when suddenly he just had to check his e-mails (and maybe answer one or two. Or three). Not to mention the fact that many phones beep every single time a new e-mail arrives. Is it really possible to achieve any peace of mind this way?
Constant e-mail availability also helps blur the line between work time and off time. Work is great, but is answering e-mails at 3AM really necessary in order to keep it? Do you really want to have to choose between friends and work when you’re hanging out in a bar, just because you happened to see that e-mail? Not mention the typo-ridden e-mails and/or misunderstandings that arise from people who just have to answer your e-mail from wherever they are, even though they can’t really pay attention to it and type a normal reply.
Replaces Other Pastimes
I’ve just returned from two years in a different country, and haven’t been around my friends for a while. While I was gone, they all got smartphones. The first several times I met them all, I was surprised to discover that even though we’re all sitting around in the same room, people are actually sitting around in pairs around smartphones and playing/surfing/taking pictures. I also know some people who read much less because they spend most of their free time playing with their phone.
So again, I’m not saying these activities are bad, but should they replace many of the other things we used to be doing, together and alone?
I already mentioned taking pictures, but the camera deserves its own section. True, smartphones have increasingly good cameras, and I’ve seen pictures taken by phones that would not have come out better using a regular camera. It’s also true that it’s nice to have such a good camera available at all times. But as nice as it is, the line has to be drawn somewhere!
Maybe it’s just me, but I find the “taking each other’s pictures” pastime to be extremely annoying. I’ve seen people go out for coffee and simply sit there with their phone for 2 hours taking each other’s pictures, looking at it, laughing, and taking some more. I know people could be doing this with cameras just as easily, but they don’t!
Too Many Ways to Communicate
This is a good one. Theoretically, smartphones should make communication between people much easier. This is not always the case, however. A while ago a friend told me that his mother keeps asking him why he doesn’t answer her messages. She keeps trying to talk to him but he never answers. The reason for this was that she was sending him messages through regular text messages, Skype, Gtalk, WhatsApp, e-mails and probably through other protocols as well, and he never even knew what she was referring to when she asked him why he wasn’t answering.
In a regular phone, there are only so many ways to communicate. If someone sends me a text message, I either get it or I don’t. Smartphones open up numerous ways to communicate, and we embrace them all. But sometimes it’s not so clear anymore where we’re communicating, and the communication gets lost. And doesn’t this defeat the whole purpose of phones, really?
Smartphones revolutionized out lives. I’m not here to contend that. What I’ve written may not apply to you specifically; but if you think about it for a minute, I’m sure you’ll find someone you know who sometimes finds it hard to draw the line between phone time and people time. This has been a problem for a while, but smartphones make it that much worse. So don’t throw away your smartphones just yet; but do try to remember, at the end of the day, they’re just phones!
What do you think? Are we becoming too addicted to smartphones, or is it all in my head? Share your opinions in the comments.