Smart Phones: Who Uses Who?

You have a smartphone in your pocket, I can almost guarantee it. In fact, it is becoming impossible to function without one. From my own experience, going without my smartphone for even a day not only puts a strain on my relationships; it stresses me out. My smartphone is no longer an accessory to my daily life, a tool for organization and convenience, but an integral part of my social network, education, and overall well being. I’ve found it difficult to pinpoint my feelings towards my phone, but I have realized that regardless of my opinion on my smartphone, using it is very addicting.

An article I discovered, on webmd of all places, details this addiction and its affects on daily life. A few of the statistics provided by freelance journalist Susan Davis help illuminate this phenomenon. According to a study at the Harvard Business School, 44% of adults would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they couldn’t access their smartphone for a week. Additionally, she states that the average user checks his or her device an average of 35 times a day. Compared to an average one or two email checks a day, this number is massive. Davis continued on to quote Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. Carr claims that smartphones, due to their easy accessibility, provide users with an “environment of almost constant interruptions and distractions”. Furthermore, Carr states that it is nearly impossible for humans to resist our innate desire to know everything that goes on around us, and therefore it is next to impossible to resist the temptation to constantly check one’s smartphone. Davis concludes her piece with a bulleted list of suggestions for how a user can resist their smartphone; all centered around self-discipline.

Whether or not we live in an age of “Information Utopia” or “Information Dystopia” is hard to pinpoint. The negative side effects to 21st century technology, however, are not. Clearly our newfound cultural obsession with our phones is negative. Without opportunities for self reflection and true relaxation, we are left to stress constantly about augmenting our media intake. A sentiment from one of our readings; Malcom McCullough’s book Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information, captures this phenomenon well. McCullough presents the image of “a retreat from an annoying set of glowing rectangles at work to a soothing set of glowing rectangles at home. There might be advantages to unplugging altogether for a while, but people seem to put a higher priority on regaining control of their media first.” (51) This article, as well as what we have learned in class, made me feel almost guilty in a way. I am at the same time both mindful of the negative side effects to information overload and attention division, and unable to mend my personal habits. I, like Davis’ 70% of adults check my phone first thing in the morning, and like another 56% check it within an hour of going to sleep. In-between I am a slave to the buzz of my iPhone, checking my phone in the middle of conversations, lectures, and genuine life-experiences. The smartphone, in my eyes, is a burden that our current society forces upon us, with no alternative route. Smartphone addiction has become a part of life.

Citations:

· Davis, Susan. “Smartphone Addiction: Managing Your Phone Usage Time.”WebMD. WebMD, 21 June 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

· McCullough, Malcolm. “Attention.” Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 46–67. Print.