The Psychology of Technology: Smartphones

“Let me Google that right quick.”

“I have to Tweet about this.”

“Do it for the Vine.”

The IBM Simon

All of these phrases wouldn’t carry as much weight if we had to be tied to a traditional laptop or desktop. Luckily smartphones are here to make that easier. The first “smartphone” was made available in August of 1994. The IBM Simon was primitive to say the least, measuring 8 inches tall, 2.5 inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall. It had a 4.5 inch touchscreen with a stylus. Pretty much a paperweight compared to the latest iPhone or Note. But it got the ball rolling. Today, we have huge, crystal clear screens that provide us with the most up to date information we demand. This instant satisfaction has created a very interesting psychological pattern in people.

Instant satisfaction is great, for a little bit. But soon, our minds begin to forget what it’s like to have to wait for something. To those of you who are already used to always having your phone, it’s like slow wifi in your hotel. Instant satisfaction is also one of the main problems with drugs. When a person begins to use drugs, they get used to immediate gratification. As in most things in life, instant satisfaction is just not possible. But with that smartphone in your pocket, you have the worlds knowledge at your finger tips. All your friends are just a tap away. Not saying that your smartphone will have the same effect on your body and psyche as heroin, but there are negatives that come with instant gratification, such as anxiety, stress, and impatience.

So do smartphones ruin our lives? Of course not. They provide us with so many very nice benefits. We can get virtually all information in the world. They keep everybody connected in ways that were previously never possible. They save lives by allowing us to dial 911 wherever we are for crying out loud. Without them, many of our lives would be boring right? Well maybe. But more than likely, we wouldn’t know we were bored, because we would have never experienced what it is like to pull your phone out and play Monument Valley for only 5 minutes before class starts and then an hour later, class is over and you’re trying to solve the level still.

But is it a bad thing to be “addicted” to your phone? That depends. Do you chat with people? Do you like sharing your life with people? Do you like games? Do any of these things impair critical life tasks such as working, school, eating, sleeping, or maintaining relationships? If you answered yes to any of the impairment questions, ask yourself this. When not using your phone, do you struggle to pay attention to the task at hand, ignore others, or just completely space out? If you answered yes any of these situations as this as well, you might have a problem.

So how is this fixed? Well it’s like any other addiction. It takes you wanting to make a difference. That’s step one. This next statement may seem a little extreme, considering we are just talking about smartphones, but addictions are not necessarily a choice. Addiction is a disease of the brain. The brain releases dopamine, and any pleasurable activity releases dopamine. People become addicted to this and soon can begin to lose motivation without those dopamine stimulating activites. Step two is to breathe through the tough times. Resist with all your might. You may not completely be able to focus like you should, but soon you will. Step three is just time. Pay attention in class, listen to your boss, and do good on your test or report. Your levels for joy in the little things in life will go up, and then you won’t feel the need to constantly use your phone all the time.

So next time you’re out to dinner with your friends or family, don’t pull your phone out. Leave it in the car even. You’ll be amazed how much more involved and enjoyable your conversations will be.