Technology has changed the way society communicates with one another, it has advanced in a matter of decades. An ambiguous reality would develop in society as people become more dependent upon technology, which creates an outcry against it, and this reality diminishes intelligence and basic norms of behavior. The smartphone is targeted by millions of people around the world, as perceived, obsessions with this kind of technology have created as much constructive feedback as it has generated unhelpful criticism within the community. What is remarkable in all of this, is how the technology itself is held responsible for the social issues. It is rational to assess modern American culture as a negative behavior, but the effect is generated, not by the technology; but by the ways in which users choose to employ it. The benefits of smartphone technology outweigh the cons of it.
Before the actual issue or problem of the smartphone’s role in the culture may be understood, it is first necessary to recognize how remarkable this technology is. Commonly known or otherwise, the irrefutable reality is that these devices allow for unprecedented communication, just as the Internet access permits research, entertainment, the acquiring of news, and social media interactions. Moreover, applications are continually being designed and offered which add limitless potential in usage, from recording abilities to monitoring physical condition while exercising (Jung). When the obvious factors of mobility and ease of use are also considered, it is inevitable that usage would reach inestimable levels, and levels reflecting dependence. The technology, in a word, is just that good. Moreover, increased consumption translates to greater affordability.
A study was done by Ward, Duke, Gneezy and Bos showed that cognitive power and brain ability reduce when an individual’s smartphone is within a sight or touching distance even if the owner of the smartphone has turned off or has put the smartphone face down. Ward and colleagues found out that the ability of an individual to process information improved when the smartphone is in another room (Ward, Duke, Gneezy and Bos 149). The presence of a consumer’s smartphone in the vicinity negatively affects faculties of cognitive capacity including available working memory and functional fluid intelligence. Discovery of smartphone in the vicinity also reduces the ability of the individual to engage in more complex tasks. The effect of this is the reduced reasoning and thinking capacity such as remembering and processing data. The problem of the smartphone in the vicinity of an individual is that it may beg to be touched or the user may receive a notification from one of the social media contacts. This results in distraction of the user from the primary goal or the primary activity. The effect of this is that the user does not seem intelligent because he or she cannot focus on an activity when the smartphone is within the vicinity. For example, smartphone communication may cause distraction during driving and this may lead injuries and even death of the victims.
At the same time, and as noted, there exists a growing outcry against the smartphone as a negative force in society and the average life. Every year, new studies are undertaken to determine the effects of the technology on the users, and the evidence is discouraging. Prior to 2000, for example, research consistently indicates that adolescents enjoyed higher levels of senses of well-being, which was as well linked to literal social interactions. In later years, however, the reality has changed and multiple studies now connect teen dissatisfaction, and often severe depression and anxiety, with increased smartphone usage (Twenge, Martin and Campbell, 2). The irony is difficult to miss, particularly as so many, young and older, turn to their smartphones to engage in the social media they believe will provide enjoyment. Nonetheless, everything points to the devices as perceived by users as essential to daily living. Human nature is such that what was once an advantage becomes, with greater access, a necessity. That the smartphone is so relied upon is confirmed by reports of how usage itself occurs. Many users admit to having their smartphones with them as they shower just as, and despite laws prohibiting it, texting and driving goes on virtually unabated (Archer). In business, in buying, in socializing, in being entertained, and in staying informed, these tools have become extensions of the individuals’ beings, and in a matter of two decades.
As has been mentioned, smartphones have reduced the ability of humans to remember and process information. In addition, the smartphones have made it difficult for people to day dream, soul search and engage in creative thinking. The fact that people are so engrossed on their smartphones reduces social and interpersonal skills thereby increasing personal anxieties and may make parents ignore their children. According to Hussain, Griffiths and Sheffield (379), the moderate and heavy users of smartphones feel some form of anxiety over a period of time. This is caused by dependency to the smartphone which is mediated by unhealthy connections that users have towards their constant use may increase a user’s anxiety when they cannot reach their smartphones. Smartphones have been used to access the internet and this has had a direct effect on the number of people who complain on the effects of the internet o their family time. The designers of smartphones and the different apps that run within the smartphones have ensured that people are addicted to the use of smartphones with very little to do to help themselves out of the addiction. Hussain and colleagues continue to assert that smartphone users should be informed of the addictive properties of smartphones before they make a purchasing decision or before they download an app.
The distraction that is brought about by smartphones affect productivity of workers in different fields. The reason for this is that it takes some time before office workers return to their normal work or schedules after they are distracted by smartphones. This averages up to 25 minutes means that many organizations are losing a lot of man hours on the smartphones. Smartphones are manipulative and according to Andrew-Gee, they use the power of complex algorithms to determine what to feed their users at any given time. The implication of this is that the proliferation of smartphones has resulted in a situation where users do not have the power of determining some of the things that happen within their immediate environments.
What has emerged, then, is an ideology viewing the smartphone as a potentially negative force in society. People complain of how usage blurs the lines between public and private arenas, and how the devices encourage narcissism. As this takes hold, so too are there strategies considered to counter these effects. Communities across the nation are offering varieties of “help” for the addicted user, based on thinking that: “Intervention strategies should be focused on helping addicts with more physical activities, so that they can have better self-discipline in the use of their smartphones” (Bian, Leung 76). Certainly, it is reasonable that any social problem should be addressed. It is also, however, misguided in motive. More exactly, what generally occurs is that the smartphone is demonized simply because people do not use it wisely, and this is a completely irrational approach. The technology is immensely valuable and in no way at fault because users fail to exercise self-control with it.
Somehow, this is a consistent reality in American culture, in that a “means” is mistaken for an “end.” A parallel, in fact, may be made with the drug problem. Millions are addicted, millions are arrested, yet there is only a recent effort, as within the specialized drug courts, to comprehend that the person’s being and life, and not the drugs, are the problems. This in turn reflects how weaknesses in the society, as in a lack of promoting independent behaviors and intelligent ambitions, likely encourage smartphone abuses and the negative consequences of the usage. Plainly, the technology cannot be blamed, just as the currents of smartphone blame are likely generated by desires in users to absolve themselves of an inescapable responsibility.
However, there is a counterargument that smartphones are making us smarter. The argument in this case is that the use of smartphones in the society and especially in education allows for learning to take place smoothly. This is because smartphone users are able to access different sets of information within a short period of time. The implication of this is that students do not rely on their teachers only but they are able to engage in independent learning outside the classroom environment. In addition, according to Pyle, the information in smartphones is provided in an accessible manner and is filtered to ensure that users access the information that they want. This helps in boosting processing and better organization of information within the brain of the user. The use of smartphones has ensured that people have a lot of information at their fingertips. Smartphone users are able to read articles, watch videos among other uses.
The information that they obtain from the smartphones can be applied to their daily lives. Some of the information such as health information including diabetes management can help improve the quality of care outcomes for patients, something which was not possible before the advent of smartphones. The other argument is that smartphones unlike books and other media do not make their users bored. The reason for this is that information in the smartphone is presented in a manner that is interactive allowing for closer engagement. According to Pyle, this has worked to improve reading and comprehension ability of the different content that they are engaging with.
It is ironic that even the increasing objections to the smartphone cannot reduce its presence in the society, and because the technology is just too valuable to be set aside. More to the point, objections aimed at the devices are misguided at best, because it is plainly irrational to attach usage responsibility and control to a device itself. It may be unfortunate that Americans require being taught how to assume control over their own behaviors, but it remains inaccurate to assign any such responsibility to a technology. If this is a hard lesson Americans must learn time and time again, that does not negate the fundamental truth of it. Modern American culture may well be negatively affected by the smartphone, but the effect is created, not by the technology, but by the ways in which users choose to employ it and become dependent upon it. There is a counterargument that smartphones have allowed for presentation of information in a manner that is easily readable and understandable to the users. This has allowed for information sharing and ensured that people are versed in different fields thereby dispelling the notion that smartphones lead to foolishness. The implication of this is that the effects of smartphones on humans depend on the manner in which they are used. Users especially children should therefore be directed on how best they can use their smartphones to ensure that they leverage on the advantages and eliminate the weaknesses.
- Andrew-Gee, Eric. Your Smartphone is making you Stupid, Antisocial and Unhealthy. So Why can’t you put in Down. The Globe and Mail, 10 April 2018 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/your-smartphone-is-making-you-stupid/article37511900/. Accessed 16 May 2018.
- Archer, Dale. “Smartphone Addiction.” Psychology Today. 25 July 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2018.