Smartphones – Are They Creating Stupid People?

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Smartphones – Are They Creating Stupid People?

I’m not the first to write on this topic nor the last but it’s the subject of today’s blog because I feel quite strongly about this growing phenomenon.

Smartphone chain

 

There are an estimated 1.8 billion of us using smartphones and this year alone will see a further 25% increase in ownership. By 2017 a third of the World’s population will be glued to their touch screen devices.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m someone with a long record of smartphone ownership from early HTC varieties through to iPhone but I’m not such a fan as I was.

Millions of us are struggling with an addiction to the smartphone.  The proliferation of these super slim, super smart devices gives us a look of that 24th Century imagined world of Gene Roddenberry.  How long before we’re moving from “hang outs” to “beam ups”?

 

So what of this reference to making us stupid and why am I not such the fan that I once was?

It’s not that your smartphone contains anything other than a deep pool of wonderful treasures.  We have ready access to apps that can help with every single facet of our lives.  They keep us fit, healthy, on time, up to date with international, national, local and personal news and entertained with games, TV, radio and our favourite songs.

We can’t hold back progress with technology and let’s face it we’re pretty insatiable when it comes to the fast moving consumer gizmology but I do think we’re struggling to keep up.

As humans we are undeniably an adaptive species.  Evolving from hunter gatherers to hot shot gamers with each generation bringing their own unique code of knowledge and rules factoring the software into their lives so that it becomes intertwined with everyday living.

It’s this interdependence of human and technology that is starting to bother me.  It’s also a reason why primary schools are starting to build lessons into the curriculum to help explain how these instruments work.

Our recent trip to the USA was great save the occasions the location visited either A) didn’t supply wifi or B) did supply wifi but at such a poor level that it brought immediate frustrations.  I even went to the trouble of buying a portable wifi hotspot so we could retain connectivity whilst traveling up the coast from LA to San Francisco. It cost a few dollars but nothing compared to the potential costs if we’d relied on the local networks for our downloads.  We ALL had smartphones and we used them, pretty much constantly.

At work they can be a real boon, mobile access to e-mail, online searches on the move and that feeling that “you’re always in touch”.  Trouble is, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.  Here are a few of the issues I have with how we are currently using our smartphones;

  1. Work e-mails synced with the device, as boss or manager you’re now giving the “always on call” message and allowing others to expect instant responses to colleagues, suppliers and clients.  Client enquiries are of course important but so is managing expectations.  Offline time is essential and healthy.
  2. Due to 1. Many of us have become addicted to checking our inbox. Ask yourself this question, when do you first check and make a last look at your e-mails?  Typically the honest answer is before you get out of bed and when you get back into it.
  3. Social media apps – if you have them on your smartphone the chances are it’s the primary method of staying in touch on those channels. For social media issues read the e-mail problem in 2.) It’s addictive and the thought that you might be missing something compels you to check your accounts several times an hour.
  4. Conversations are punctuated by the constant reminder that someone far more important is trying to grab your attention. The ping of text, vibration of a tweet or whoosh of an e-mail. Gosh you’re popular…and very rude too.
  5. Eating out with a loved one, colleague, business associate or client. Being unable to eat a meal without posting each course to Instagram means you’re not alone, you’re sharing the experience with hundreds if not thousands of people, most of whom are looking to trump your effort with one of their own.
  6. Important information can be stored in your smartphone and there are great apps to help you be better organised. The device is not however a real person and the distraction of keeping one eye on the screen when someone’s talking to you means you won’t recall the detail, very likely you’ll not have a clue as to what’s being discussed.
  7. Time management – we all know from the early days of the internet and search engines that once we got the idea in our head we could literally search for anything…that’s exactly what we did…for hours and hours. We can lose ourselves in a time vacuum that sucks the productivity out of our day.  The trouble with smartphones is the size of text on screen and time taken to absorb anything of consequence.  Find another way, or better still ask yourself if this particular browsing session is really that important.
  8. Feeling constantly tired? Here’s the thing.  If you’re on your device at 10pm, 11pm or even midnight and later you’ll be getting messages through your eyes that it’s daylight.  The screens luminescence confuses our brain and when you dive under the duvet it won’t get the message to switch off.  Hence it takes considerably longer to get to sleep and its quality is adversely affected.  So of course you feel tired, you’re not getting enough sleep.  When you’re tired you function poorly and decision making can be harder with mistakes often made.  Worse still if you need to concentrate by driving to and from work or operating complex equipment.

Selfie time.  No please, don’t take another profile pic for Facebook, instead take a look at yourself properly.  When was the last time you truly studied how you’re running your life.  Heads up from the screen and take pen and paper to write a list of positive actions that can help you take back control.

Last year for the whole month of October I ran my #Offtober experiment.  I turned off my smartphone at 8pm each evening and didn’t switch it back on until 8am.

The result of this simple step was improved sleep it also had a positive impact on mood and overall well-being.  Like many of us I’ve since drifted back into bad habits but rather than wait for October to come around I’m going to set myself clear rules so I can get the benefits of the tech without the downside.

No doubt many smug readers, my wife included will nod sagely and say, I told you this ages ago.  Well yes, you probably did but I was face deep in technology at the time.

David Laud

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