Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and its’ impact on human beings. Specifically, I’ve been watching the impact smartphones have on the people that use them.
In the tech world, the term ‘user’ was coined to define humans who use a product. I find the term appropriate, as it’s also the term used for those addicted to drugs.
Let’s talk about smartphones, which you’re probably using to read this blog…
I recently wrote a blog about my addiction to materialism. If materialism is the fruit, the root of the addiction is the idea of “I want it now” – an attitude that, at its core, is inherently selfish; not in the “I need to eat” kind of way, but in the “nobody else matters” toxic mentality.
Research is showing that smartphones provide a small boost of dopamine on the human brain. For example, every time we receive a comment, like, etc. on our social channels, we get a tiny spike of dopamine; the chemical that makes us feel good.
Drugs work the same way. Ingest a white powder and your dopamine levels skyrocket. The rush of dopamine becomes an addiction, which our brain tells us we ‘need’ in order to feel normal.
Given that both smartphones and drugs produce dopamine, have addictive nature, destroy attention spans/relationships, I’ve wondered why more people aren’t paying attention to the impact their smartphone usage has on their lives.
I liken smartphone usage to driving a car. If you were driving a car, would you want your windshield to be a normal size, or the size of your smartphone window? I’m guessing you’d want a full-size windshield in front of you.
Why? Because it allows you to see everything in front of you, while a screen the size of your iDrug wouldn’t give you visibility into the road ahead, behind, or around you.
By nature, smartphones provoke reactive behavior; when your phone rings, you answer. When you receive a text message, you read it. The timeframe that elapses between these sorts of actions is a very far cry from communication humans used in the past, such as mailed letters.
When I was younger, I remember the joy of receiving a letter in the mail. Additionally, it taught me the lesson of patience, because letters took days/weeks to arrive, and weren’t always responded to immediately upon receiving them. There was something special about having written correspondence with a penpal who lived miles away.
The reactive nature of opening your smartphone screen as soon as it dings is very similar to training a dog to bark on command – and just as insulting to human intelligence, patience (a virtue) and the capacity required to have emotional involvement in communication.
As a child, I grew up reading the likes of Jules Verne and Charles Dickens. The stories would take you on a beautiful journey that seemed to block out everything happening in the world.
“Please sir, may I have some more?”
Stories involved romance, drama, action, adventure, and suspense. These concepts appear distant in world where you can order a pizza with three clicks of your smartphone, land a date by swiping right, and communicate to somebody on the other side of the planet in microseconds.
Forgive me if I appear to be old-fashioned, but I’m growing incredibly worried about the impact of smartphones on humans ability to feel things like emotion.
When you train your brain to want things instantly from your smartdrug, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to expect this sort of response from others around you – accompanied by frustration and anger when they don’t respond as quickly as your likes pile up when you selfie.
Whenever I walk through a restaurant, I see many people sitting across from each other, glued to their smartphones. What could be more important than the moment, person in front of you, and opportunity to connect in a meaningful conversation? It baffles me.
One of the biggest issues I see with smartdrug usage is that it doesn’t require your full attention. You can maintain dozens of conversations, one line at a time, simultaneously. Unfortunately, I don’t see this vehicle lending itself to presence, high attention spans, or the emotional space required to make somebody else feel valued.
Blueberry pancakes with vanilla frosting, riding around in a Ford f-150 painted shades of purple galaxies and pink soccer defeats.
The above words make absolutely no sense. It’d be pretty frustrating to have a meaningful conversation injected with something completely foreign and unrelated. Don’t you think? Hello?
In the past few years, I can’t think of many conversations I’ve had that weren’t interrupted by the other person responding to a text message, email, or social media. How did this become acceptable behavior?
When you break up a conversation to check your phone, you’re signaling to the other person they matter less than what’s on the other end of your screen.
Very few people would pause a conversation to tell the other person:
Yet, you see it happen all the time when somebody whips out their smartphone to check a message, leaves it on the table during a dinner conversation, or doesn’t turn their notifications on silent/vibrate.
If this were played out in ‘real life’ it would be akin to two people having a conversation, with one (or both) people walking away every few minutes to talk to somebody else, then trying to return to the conversation and resume where they left it. It simply wouldn’t work.
Do yourself a favor. Put down your fucking cell phone. Turn it on silent. Check it when you want to check it, rather than when you hear the bell and perform the way the smartphone manufacturer has trained you to react to their modern dog whistle.
When I was little, I saw a young girl at the zoo, who had a leash tied to her back, held by the parent.
“She no dog” I pointed out to my Mom.
You no dog, either. More importantly, the people around you deserve your time, attention, and love. If you don’t provide it to them, and offer them a fraction of your attention span, what do you expect you will receive in return?
This is a conversation I won’t mince or walk on eggshells about. I see smartphones destroying the ability for humans to connect with each other in a meaningful way. I see family dinners ruined by an entire table full of people who can’t take their eyes off their phones when the people they say they love most are right next to them.
“Don’t pause the moment to capture it” was a term one of my close friends used, when asked to take a photo/video. At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant. Now, I see the value behind those words.
Life is precious. Far too precious to waste behind the screen of your smartphone. I’d encourage you to try and think about the social MEdia interactions you interrupted your last meal to check on; can you remember them? Probably not.
If that’s the case, was it really worth interrupting a meal to see how many people liked and commented on your last photo? That might be food for thought…
I write this blog because I look around and see a world where people are glued to their smartphones, care less about those around them, and show obvious signs of emotional degradation; unable to feel, express, or show emotions to others in a meaningful way.
For the thousands of likes I’ve received from social media, none of them have felt as good as a hug from my Mom, or meaningful conversation with a friend/stranger.
In closing, I’ll offer that smartphones degrade your ability to give 100% of yourself to another. When you give somebody your 100% attention – you are telling them “I love you” without needing to say a word. It’s what makes people feel heard, understood, loved, and cared for.
You no dog.