Small Device that Changes ALL

Young monks using a smartphone in Burma. Photograph: Prasit Chansareekorn/Flickr Vision

Mobile phones have deeply rooted in the life of humankind: it will be logical assumption that in the modern world a few people imagine our daily lives without a mobile phone. For the overwhelming majority, this is not only a means of communication, because cell phones are a tool of entertainment and of obtaining a variety of information, as well as means for self-expression through different accessories or settings of tone and images. If at the beginning of this century the cell phone was only a convenient way for establishing communication, today with the advent of a new generation of “smart” phones on the market, this device can in fact be called a personal computer that allows free Internet surfing and other operations that used to been under the power of a computer. All of these facts make me think and wonder in which way does cell phone change our culture? While answering this question, it is worth noting that the creators of mobile phones have served the great service to humanity and every day add new services and opportunities to this device. And yet some people specifically or because of their ignorance abuse, this discovery of humanity, which allows us to assert that cell phones have a negative impact on the modern culture on the global scale.
 
The moment of understanding
I think that every modern person once in their lifetime experienced the moment when they came to the understanding that culture has changed and that is the fault of the usage of mobile phones.

Chinese New Year in 50 years ago

For me, the indicator was the rethinking of the traditions within my own family, especially the one connected with the celebration of Chinese New Year. This is a festival that gives Chinese a chance to meet their family together. During this celebration, people usually have dinner together, play firework together, and exchange the lucky money and so on. I used to think about Chinese New Year in terms of a spiritual communication festival, which resulted in the growth of Chinese happiness index.

However, there was a situation that is keeping people away from each other. During the Chinese New year, my family and I have usually visited my uncles, who live far from us, and we often handed the actual lucky money to them in person, so it was a chance to communicate with my uncles. After cell phone has developed, now we can just send our lucky money through a cell phone, so my parents think they don’t need to visit their relatives or friends since they have already sent the lucky money to them through the mobile phone. Since that time, every year when there was Chinese New Year, they were always busy in sending the e-lucky money on their cell phones. What is even, the sadder thing is that we all stay in the same room without any sign of conversations, because we were all checking our cellphones. Realizing these facts, I can say that the cell phone was breaking our thousands of year’s traditional culture.

Smartphone changes Chinese culture within about 5 years

Scientific approach to the question of cultural changes

My own experience makes me further wonder if such a small device can cause the destruction of culture and traditions accumulated for centuries. Comparing with the proposed case the memory about times when it was not acceptable to talk on a phone while a lunch with friends, is nothing. The similar practices are now perceived rather as a social experiment, and there will always be a person who doesn’t refrain from reading the message or email. The phenomenon of addiction from mobile phones is now widely studied by the psychologists and sociologist, who are trying to connect the modern activities with the traditional concepts and theories, for example, from the symbolic interaction school of Erving Goffman, who studied the principles of social interaction. In the frames of his theory, the cell phones can be described as “a subordinate activity” that should be set aside when the dominant resumes (Pinchot 2). At the same time, the deeper analysis I am trying to conduct, the more confident I become in the issue of substitution of these two activities (subordinate and dominant) in case of modern usage of mobile devices: it becomes the main activity that is accomplished with the meetings or having dinner.
 
Continuing my reasoning, the vivid quote should be cited: “Some believe that the same technology that has liberated our world might also imprison us if we don’t seriously examine its effects on us personally and collectively” (Luce 2010). The main question regarding this thought is the reasons of a negative impact of the cell phones on our culture. To my opinion, the main cause lies in the fact of the mass character of the phone usage. When the phones differing in their compactness became available to everyone, and telephone booths on the streets have gone, the cellphones stopped being an attribute of the higher classes. In fact, there was a depreciation of the mobile, which made it part of the mass culture, and, as you know, quantitative transformations are always part of deeper qualitative (whether positive or negative). However, people cannot just get used to this comfort very quickly. That is why we should mention one cause of the cultural changes; and in this case, to concentrate on the negative ones, it’s all about the information flowing from the television screens and the screens of the mobile phones themselves. Persistent advertising constantly argues that a person simply won’t survive in this world without cell phones, beneficial tariffs, or, talking about young generations, without the constantly available mobile Internet. If you want to be successful and up-to-date, communicate and solve all your businesses on the phone! Of course, most people perceive such influence quite adequately, but impressionable and trustful people understand everything too literally, thereby encouraging and cherishing their phobia of being excluded from the social life.
 
The changed perception of cell phones
 
The desire of being a part of bigger social groups is natural and is “instilled in us” at the level of instincts. That is why in the modern society with the mass culture, we cannot say that the negative effects on the same culture are a fault of one of its part (because a cell phone is really a part of the mass culture). People are only who is responsible for any changes in the culture no matter positive or negative. The mass culture produced the icons, celebrities in fashion, sport, cinematographic whom the rest are ready to follow. Such popularity is often used by marketers who have only one goal: to sell goods (in this case phones and mobile connection services). Taking these facts into consideration, it can be concluded that the whole blame for negative effects of smartphones on our culture lies on the individuals themselves.
 
It is interesting that nowadays, we have not just the changed cultural traditions and customs, which were transformed into the more digital versions, our perception of the phone was changed as well. Townsend (2000) described the reality established in the twenty-first century with the words, “Phones have become so addictive that they are being perceived more and more as an extension of the body, in a virtual sense rather than a physical one” (Pinchot 3). Explaining this idea in terms of the reality that surrounds our daily, it can be seen that our cell phone is a psychological need or even the part of the self-conscious. The connection on such level of the human psyche results in the problems that found a way out in the behavior and emotional states.
 
The Fear of missing out (FOMO)

I can’t stop clicking these apps!!!

That is why one of the most frightening issues connected with the shifts in our culture as a result of mobile phones use is the desire to be a part of social life presented in the various social networks. I believe that a great part of people, especially in the young age cohorts, have a feeling that all around endlessly go to exhibitions, lectures, to the gym, meeting with friends and of course, have time to watch all the new series. Besides, half of the friends in the contact list are constantly traveling despite the study process or the need to be at work. It seems that everyone, except you, does not have a life, but fireworks. In fact, this is not the truth; the point is that what you are observing is a life of friends that is presented to people from the outside. However, the feelings of being excluded from the bright life is a peculiar personal feature of, approximately, a half of mobile phone and social networks users. It was called a syndrome of loss of profit, or the fear of missing out (FOMO). This obsessive feeling that you live a much less valuable life than others do not have time to do anything, although you could, and all the fun happens where you are absent (Przybylski 1841). Moreover, the stronger this feeling is, the greater is the desire to check all the time what the others are doing. The latter is precisely possible with the development of technology and the proliferation of mobile phones. In the chain of relations between FOMO and mobile phone, the second one is a mediating variable that connects the mentioned fear and the usage of social network sites. It was proved in 2013 by the group of scientists who conducted a series of researches related to the FOMO and the motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of it (Przybylski 1841–1848). The research team concluded that the problem is an obsessive, uncontrollable desire to check the news tape, which becomes possible with the development of mobile connection to the Internet and the global spread of mobile phones. Such symptom of fear of missing out was described in the book Alone Together written by Sherry Turkle, who interviewed teenagers and found that “Teens who believe they need to be available 24/7 to their friends, because, you know, someone might get dumped or into an argument with their parents” (Grohol 2013). The illusory feeling of importance and inclusion to the social life that is provided for us by mobile phones has raised the habit of constantly being distracted by your smartphone, no matter what you do (even during a date or while driving) to the rank of dependencies.

Don’t texting while driving!

The term dependency was used because people cannot refuse the using of devices even with understanding the dangerous potential of their actions. The best example is the mentioned earlier talking or texting on the cell phones while driving a vehicle. A survey conducted by Nationwide Insurance named Driving While Distracted found that 38% of citizens of the United States were hit or almost hit by a person who was using his or her smartphone (Nationwide Insurance, 2010). Moreover, the study revealed that 25% of Americans use downloaded applications such as GPS, send or receive emails, read messages or news while driving (Pinchot 3). In fact, the conclusion that can be made on that basis is that cell phones created a culture of egoism, when a personal desire to be aware of prevails over their own safety, and most importantly the safety of others.
 
The survey confirmation of cultural shifts
 
 At the same time, not all of the cultural shifts are as well fundamental and dangerous as the use of phones while driving. Remembering that fact, I’ve decided to take my own short survey about the cell phone usage in everyday life. I gathered 35 responses for 13 days, which in general proved that people in the contemporary are addicted to their phones.

The most significant results, for my opinion, that testifies for the cultural changes are percentages of respondents about morning and evening practices of checking smartphone. For example, only 11,43% of individuals who took part in the survey don’t check phone within 5 minutes of waking up. While in the question: “Do you check your phone before sleep?” only 2,86% selected the same answer. It can be concluded that almost 90% of people have the rituals of checking the phone after or before their disconnection from the rest of the world. In fact, such results can be a part of the evidence in favor of the FOMO’s spread.

This is the survey that I took from my friends

Another part of this short research that I want to address relates to the use of phones during the dinner: 42.86% gave an affirmative answer, 45.71% stated that they use a phone during dinner only sometimes, and only 11.43% were sure that they do not have such a habit. The gathered material have returned my thoughts to my own family; as I’ve mentioned at the first part of this paper, nowadays the communication patterns during the joint pastime were changed by the smartphones. It can be clearly seen on the proposed picture.

Picture of my family

Thinking critically, I can say that phones become an integral part of the evening ritual, including the dinner. Nevertheless, this idea can be applicable not only to my family but thousands of other all over the world.
It can be seen that some family members are so strongly attached to their mobile phone that, unfortunately, they do not come off from it even when they come home. But the family is a place where the atmosphere must be imbued with the love and friendship of its members to each other. When a person is constantly busy with the mobile even after arriving home, he or she cannot pay attention to the rest of the family, which naturally offends them and causes the feelings that are not always pleasant.

That is why another example of the negative impact of misunderstanding the main functions of mobile phones is the use of the capabilities of these technologies as part of a change in the traditional way of life, including family ties and meetings with relatives face to face. It is a well-known fact that the use of modern technologies has caused many connections to be made via mobile phones and SMS messages, replacing meetings and close ties with relatives. However, it should not be forgotten that people’s social relations are not limited only to the sound relations, and the mobile phone should not be used to fulfill someone’s duty to relatives. We all need to be close to each other, to hear and see each other in order to create peace, understanding and mental health, because family support is the main component of the latter. Therefore, using the mobile phone correctly, you can use it to strengthen public relations in order to know more and more about the health of close people. But at the same time, we should not forget that our love, closeness, and mental health are laid in one-to-one relationships and meetings with friends and relatives.
 
A look from the other side
 
The whole previous part of this paper was concentrated on the negative impact of mobile phones on us, interpersonal relationships, and the modern culture. Without doubts, the harmful influence of a cell phone may lead to the serious problems, with which people have to face: from the loss of friends or job to the decreasing of the social position in society. Nevertheless, we cannot forget about the fact that every phenomenon or issue has two sides; therefore the global usage of mobile phones have a positive side of influence on the society. Just thinking: to be always in touch, to know what your child is doing now, to call a friend, if somewhere on the road a car breaks down, is not it good? The younger generations of modern society cannot remember the life without being able to talk with someone from anywhere at any moment. Maybe here lies the fundamental difference in the mobile phone’s consumption between several generations. The older people prefer to benefit from the described direct assignment of communication devices, while young adults tend to use other functions of a modern phone, such as a bunch of additional services that make life much easier. Including but not limited to the list of a clock, an alarm clock, a notebook, a calendar that always with you, and there is no need to have these things separately. Also, the most popular functions proposed by smartphones today are the ability to capture exciting moments of life on a photo or video camera and share them with friends who are far away from us. And of course, access to the Internet provides management of bank accounts, the ability to receive the latest news or to watch favorite TV shows or videos on YouTube. Along with the entertainment functions, the cell phones provide the endless opportunities in learning or managing the business thanks to the numerous applications and constant access to the high-speed Internet (the competitive advantage in the modern digital era).

What else can be said about good sides of the mobile phones usage? Similar to the negative effects, there are several issues, perceived as positive, that have an indirect impact on the shifts in the culture. The first that came to the mind is the wider application of IT technologies in the medicine, for example the creation of different applications that will be helpful in the diagnostic procedures (telemedicine). Along with being a device for providing care itself, the mobile telephone of doctor can be connected with the monitors of his or her patients and therefore the slightest changes in the state will be transferred and the healthcare professional will be informed. The second indirect cause of the cell phone spread is the basis of the civil society. Such type of social organization characterized by the active position of the citizens, which becomes easier in the digital era, when news can be known fast and the thoughts can be expressed immediately and freely in the Web.
 
In the conclusion
 
I can say that without doubts, the mobile phones have changed the image of our culture, especially the part that is connected with the mass one and the daily functioning of the society. I adhere the opinion that the shifts in the culture are irreversible and are likely to intensify. At the same time, the sign of the changes (plus or minus) still becomes undefined clearly. Nevertheless, I am sure that the main change will concern the type and view of the cell phones that will be incorporated into the culture of the future. As it was mentioned previously, the cell phones have already become a part of human on the psychological level, however, in the next decades (I am almost sure) it will be the literary true. The new technologies allow creating augmented reality, voice control, and 3D screens. I think that technological chip will be implanted into the human body and connected to the optic nerve that will be managed directly by the brain. All of the mentioned propositions sounds futuristic, but even now there are developments of mobile development in these directions. Yet the future continuity of our body with technology will have fundamental cultural consequences. And unfortunately, my forecast is not optimistic: mobile phones are already building the walls between us and the world including the nearest ones. And if these barriers are visible now, in the future people will not even understand that you are not listening to them reading the next news on the Facebook or watching the game. Nevertheless, in this cases, I adhere the opinion the described situation will be still frightening for society and our culture. Some may disagree and it is their right, just think deeper about cultural changes while using your mobile phones next time.
 
 
 
Works cited:
 
Grohol, John M. “FOMO Addiction: The Fear of Missing Out.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 15 May 2017. <https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/04/14/fomo-addiction-the-fear-of-missing-out/>.
 
Luce, Jim. “The Impact of Cell Phones on Psychology, Community, Culture, Arts and Economics.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 May 2017. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce/the-impact-of-cell-phones_b_508011.html>.
 
Pinchot, Jamie, Karen Paullet, and Daniel Rota. “How mobile technology is changing our culture.” Journal of Information Systems Applied Research 4.1 (2011): 39–48.
 
Przybylski, Andrew K., et al. “Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out.” Computers in Human Behavior 29.4 (2013): 1841–1848.
 
Townsend, A.M. (2000). Life in the real-time city: mobile telephones and urban metabolism. Journal of Urban Technology. 7(2): 85–104.

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