Ah, smartphones. Everyone has one these days – they’re the staple of a sane human being in Western society. There is little more unnerving than spotting someone pulling out their Nokia 3310 and instantly knowing that they are anarchist bent on ushering in the next dark age. But as we all spend hours a day scrolling endlessly through our social media feeds, are we taking it too far?
“The cellphone has become the adult’s transitional object, replacing the toddler’s teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.” – Margaret Heffernan
Depending on who you believe, young adults spend anywhere from 3-5 hours a day on their smartphone. I count myself among those addicted to scrolling. A common sight during my time at university was five hungover students engrossed in the dim light of their phones, a straight-to-DVD comedy playing in the background, largely unnoticed. Most attempts to galvanise the troops into venturing out were met with indifference, followed by a short exhalation of breath through the nose at an otherwise hilarious meme found on one’s smartphone.
So in some vain attempt to understand life without smartphones, I took it upon myself this week to ditch Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. Needless to say, I began to regret it immediately. Instinctively I would pick up my phone to open Instagram, seeking to satiate my temporary boredom by consuming images of random celebrities leading far more exciting lives. Once I overcame my initial lack of access to instant social gratification, I began to explore alternative ways of keeping myself entertained. Unfortunately, I was poorly versed in these methods. Reading a book is a fantastic form of entertainment, yet I typically found myself moving straight to my laptop, much in the same way switching off one lamp will simply lead a moth to cross the room in search of lamp number two.
But what did you learn? (I hear you not ask).
- Avoid scrolling endlessly through random Instagram feeds, Facebook videos and Snapchat explore clips. Nothing is learnt from these forms of smartphone engagement, and a lot is missed out on. Typically they interrupt drinks with friends, conversations that could have been with family members, or any form of self-improvement.
- Attempting to fully remove yourself from a culture of likes, comments and shares does lead to missing out. The simple fact is that smartphones have allowed people to actively remain a part of one another’s lives while living halfway around the world from each other. Grandparents see their grandchildren through smartphones, friends who can’t make weddings can watch their friends get married, and couples with long distance relationships stay in touch far better than a simple call. They’re a method through which to share photos that make us laugh, or movements that are important to us. For many, it’s a way to stay in the loop on the latest news.
- What defines whether using a smartphone is healthy or not is the individual using it. When you effectively possess the extent of human knowledge at your fingertips, you can’t conclude that smartphones have left us worse off as a society. Instead it is some of our inherently addictive natures, a constant yearning for likes or views, or some media outlets appalling excuse for news, that can lead smartphones to have a detrimental impact.
It might be worth testing yourself to see how dependent you are on your own smartphone – a week isn’t long to go without, and it may even lead to pursuing a new hobby, or reading a book, or achieving something worth being proud of. Give it a try (or don’t, I’m not your parent).