“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”
Take a look around you. Whether you are at the store, at school, or in the library, chances are, most of the people around you have their phones out. Or maybe you just got your phone out, in the middle of a meeting, because it vibrated when an email with this post was delivered to your virtual mailbox, and you just couldn’t resist taking a peek.
We live in an increasingly virtual world, a world in which twelve year old girls sit next to each other texting on their iPhones instead of talking. Where teenagers no longer pay attention in class because they are more focused on updating their social profile, or playing online games with their classmates, than listening to what the professor is trying to teach. We live in a world where “faux vibrations” (where you feel your phone vibrate even though it hasn’t) are all too common, because our phones are always on us, vibrating away throughout the day to notify us about every new email, post, like, or comment we receive on all of our virtual profiles. And when you feel this vibration, you absolutely have to check it, that second, no matter where you are, or who you are with, as if the message is a time bomb that will disappear if you aren’t fast enough. There are a few of us left who have chosen to take a step back from this virtual revolution, but even so, we feel the affects through the addicted people who surround us.
I, for one, am proud to say I have never owned one of these devices. In fact, I don’t even own a working “dumb” phone, never mind one that connects to the internet. Sure, when I was sixteen I too fell into the trap. I stayed up late texting friends, only to resume the next morning before I had even gotten out of bed. But for the last few years, the person I text most often is my mom, and my phone is more commonly off, on silent, or left at home, than vibrating in my pocket. Though I have chosen to live in the real world, rather than the increasingly popular virtual one, most of my peers have not. There is nothing more frustrating than being midway through a conversation with someone, only to have them whip out their phone. Or to be sitting around a table eating lunch, only to realize no one is speaking, since the five people around you are, you guessed it, on their phones. In North America, people are now expected to have a smart phone. Here, in a third world country where most people don’t even have access to clean water, I’m shocked at how many people do own phones. That being said, most people own simple flip phones, and are (thankfully) not on them nearly as much as in the western world.
I recently listened to to an “All in the Mind” podcast entitled “i-Disorders,” which discussed different conditions and disorders that are becoming more prevalent amongst people who have an unhealthy relationship with their phone. There are people who become anxious or agitated when they don’t know where their phone is, and basically, they feel like they can’t live without it. This type of separation anxiety leads to increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which negatively impact your body overtime. The podcast also discussed OCD, ADHD, mania, and what I found most insightful, our decreased attention span. Our attention span as a nation has dropped immensely over the last five to ten years, with no surprise. Take a typical teenager doing homework for instance. While watching tv, checking Facebook, and texting his girlfriend, this sixteen year old boy is trying to finish his math homework. It will take him hours longer to finish his homework than if he just sat down, without distraction, to finish it, and his brain will hardly remember how it was done since it was more focused on the score of the basketball game displayed in front of him, and the various texts and messages he was replying to as he worked.
That’s not to say the internet is inherently bad, in fact, I think it is one of the greatest tools in our possession today. It is possible to google any question you might have, read about places you may never get the chance to experience, and communicate with people halfway around the globe. I use Facebook, email, wordpress and google on a regular basis, and have an iPad which can connect to the internet when there is wifi. But like all good things, too much is too much. When your phone starts negatively impacting your family life, social interactions, or work, it is time to reassess. Leave that silly piece of plastic at home or off for a few hours a day, and start living in the real world.