The smartphone, an invention that revolutionized the way we interacted with the world around us, has become an inextricable part of everyone’s daily routine. The small rectangular device with the ever-glowing screen is now almost as important as a functioning organ to most individuals. Data suggests that the number of smartphone users is only set to grow in the years to come from around 2.1 billion in 2016 to 2.5 billion in 2019. Statistics also show that an average Indian spends about 2 hours a day on their smart phones. The sheer magnitude of smart phone users and the kind of time they spend on using these devices has led to a seemingly obvious conclusion-the society at large has become overly dependent on their smartphones, a dependence which for many seems to be bordering on an addiction.
Our smartphones open up the world to us quite literally at our fingertips. We can call, chat, take photographs, shoot movies, watch a variety of media content, get access to all kinds of social media and do practically anything with our phones. Its convenience and ease of access has made us believe that a life without it would be unimaginable. While we are quick to use the term ‘smartphone addict’ rather loosely, new research by the San Francisco State University has actually suggested that the overuse of smartphones is similar to any other form of substance abuse. The implications of this are massive. If there is potential for a user to get addicted to their smartphone, the detrimental effects of this will be many. In fact, over the years experts have constantly reiterated that such high levels of dependence on our smartphones have led to a host of conditions both psychological and physical.
Depression, loneliness and anxiety have been linked to excess smart phone usage. Social media has led to individuals spending more and more time on their phone seeking validation from strangers, consuming content that is tailored to cater to their limited attention spans but is at the same time extremely engaging. As the time we spend on our smart phones increase, our attention spans have also begun to decrease. Research in Canada suggests that the average attention span of humans has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to only eight seconds now. Now, we are so attuned to quick, easy content that we have forgotten how to engage with other kinds of content that require a higher level of critical thinking.
The smartphone revolution has not only affected adults. Children and teenagers are as deeply affected by it as anyone else. Children these days are spotted with the latest smartphone in their hands instead of a book or a toy. They enjoy their time playing games and watching videos on their devices and parents find it an easy way to keep their children engaged without too much effort. Childhood is a time to be spent interacting with other children and forming social bonds; in fact it is a scientific fact that children learn important social cues and learn advanced cognitive thinking from their interactions with their peers. But with smartphones, all of this is in potential danger because children have stopped stepping out of their houses.
Teenagers too are glued to Facebook, Instagram and other social media content, they assume that they have access to all kinds of information they think is relevant and required. There is a slow and gradual distancing from the real world that is taking place among people because of their smartphones. Social interactions are now limited to mobile screens. Physical health is also impaired by excessive smart phone usage. Reduced physical activity is a direct result of spending such large amounts of time on a smart phone. This is in turn can lead to various ailments. We are aware of our heavy reliance on our smart phones yet we can’t find a way to reduce our smart phone usage.
The modern world is shaped by advances in technology and the smart phone is a natural outcome of these advances. It is a useful tool, one that has made life substantially easier but this convenience is also its greatest downfall. Society as a whole seems to be intrinsically altering their lives because of their smartphones and yet they remain unaware. A balance needs to be reinstated; people need to be more aware of the world around them, a world that is greatly different from their lit up screens. The smart phone bubble can only burst when individuals across the world understand that their smartphones are now causing them more harm than gain and they need to adopt lifestyle changes to steer clear from the ever growing smart phone addiction.
Picture Credits: Dr Rachel Andrew