The relationship that certain people have to their smartphones is a special and complicated one. Some think that smartphones are an invention that is as important for civilization as the invention of the wheel or the ability to control fire. Others believe that smartphones are just the latest addition to a list of addictions that affect us. Both sides of the argument have merit.
Smartphones are amazing. The things we can achieve with their help are frankly very impressive. But sometimes we have to stop and think for a minute about what it costs us. Is it really that important to always be online? Would life as we know it lose its meaning if we turned off every app? What do we gain and what do we lose?
I’ve often thought about buying a smart phone but I’ve always dismissed the thought after further consideration. Yes, I confess, I don’t own a smartphone and I’m actually quite happy with that decision. When you think about it having a smartphone has a lot to do with wanting to multitask and wanting to access information quickly. Being able to multitask has often been seen as something good and a great way to save time. But recent discoveries have shown that the human brain is not capable of actively multitasking. Trust me on this one, I’ve learned the hard way.
The 9th of September Tim Wu posted an article for the New Yorker. You can find a link to the article further down. He discusses a problem that almost every person who owns a computer, or a smartphone, faces. We get distracted too easily. The quote below sums up the problem we face today.
“Today’s machines don’t just allow distraction; they promote it. The Web calls us constantly, like a carnival barker, and the machines, instead of keeping us on task, make it easy to get drawn in—and even add their own distractions to the mix. In short: we have built a generation of “distraction machines” that make great feats of concentrated effort harder instead of easier.”
This is the main reason why I haven’t gone out and bought a smart phone. I know myself too well and I know that I would get addicted to it. I would download too many unnecessary apps and I would spend my precious time indulging in activities that didn’t really increase my happiness. Instead of growing and developing I would scroll through Instagram picture after picture or log in on Twitter to see if my favorite blogger had posted a new “thought of the day”. I would waste hours-on-end doing that kind of stuff when I really should be focusing on studying, getting the grades I’ve already worked so hard for and doing all the things I love to do when I have the time.
I have many friends who often look at their smartphones instead of listening to the teacher who is giving a presentation for our latest assignment. I’m always baffled when the same friends a few weeks later freak out because they haven’t put in enough hours on writing their essays. Shouldn’t they know better? Shouldn’t we all know better? But it isn’t that easy. Anyone can say that the key to success is concentration. But concentration doesn’t come naturally and we only make it harder for ourselves to concentrate when we allow something like smartphones, that encourage us to access everything the internet holds whenever we like, to control they way we use our time. Anyone can fall into that trap and I know that I would easily become a victim if I had bought a smartphone.
Your world will not fall apart just because you are the last person to reply to a Facebook status update or because you don’t regularly post a tweet or instagram a photo. What will make your world fall apart is when you stop doing the things that actually deserve your time and dedication. We need to put things in perspective. Being online can be fun, but when you’re online constantly it can become a burden, almost a form of slavery, instead of being a source of happiness.