You ever read a really great book? So great that you just want to underline all of it?
That’s how I felt about this article that I came across some time last week, Obsessed with smartphones, oblivious to the here and now — and to be honest…it freaked me out a bit.
Since I am someone who loves technology and online social media I think it’s easy to overlook some of its faults. Since I have been blogging for six years, and use Twitter everyday, and connect with friends on Facebook, it’s easy for me to not realize how these things slowly shape and transform me.
This article, like many other things before it, have been waking me from my stupor. Instead of taking “the numb stance of the technological idiot”, (Thanks John Dyer for turning me on to this idea) I’m hoping to be a better consumer of the technology that I use.
There are many turning points when I realized I was addicted to my smartphone, but these two stand out the most.
- Texting constantly while at a Coldplay concert. It’s like I couldn’t just enjoy being present at a live concert.
- Texting while at the zoo with my daughter instead of just enjoying being at the zoo with her.
- And on, and on, and on the instances I could tell you.
When did you first realize that you were addicted to your smartphone?
Here are some choice selections from the article that stood out to me, with some highlighted areas that really hit me between the eyes.
You see these tethered souls everywhere: The father joining in an intense Twitter debate at his daughter’s dance recital. The woman cracking wise on Facebook while strolling through the mall. The guy on a date reviewing his fish tacos on Yelp. Not to mention drivers staring down instead of through their windshields.
Physically, they are present. Mentally, they are elsewhere, existing as bits of data pinging between cellphone towers.
Doomsayers have long predicted that technological progress would turn us into shut-ins who rarely venture from our game-playing, IM-ing digital cocoons out into the physical world. But the stereotype of the computer-addicted recluse in the basement has been blown away; smartphones make it possible to turn off the physical world while walking through it.
A recent Pew Research Center study found that “a significant proportion of people who visit public and semipublic spaces are online while in those spaces.” Parks. Libraries. Restaurants. Houses of worship.
The competition this digital world poses stretches into life’s most intimate places. Elizabeth Sloan, a local marriage counselor, worked with a couple after the husband began surfing his smartphone during sex.
“I wish I was joking,” Sloan said. “This is a real hot topic right now for marriage counselors — and the complaints are coming from men and women. You hear this a lot: ‘I can’t reach you. I can’t find you. You can be sitting two inches from me, but you are not there. Where are you?’ Spouses are checking out at dinner, on vacation. It’s really become a 24-7 thing.”
Gravity Tank, a Chicago consulting firm, recently studied app users. The smallest group, “recent converts,” just dabble in apps. “Life optimizers” use apps as an extension of their brain, organizing every minute of their day. Then there’s the largest group, the “constantly entertained,” such as Ferrari and Granetz, who covet data and fear boredom.
Why is the seemingly random — and admittedly often meaningless — information that Ferrari and Granetz crave more compelling to them than playing pony with their children? It is not because they are bad parents, psychologists say. It is not because they are men. (Sorry, ladies.) It is because they are human, and human beings tend to repeat actions that are pleasurable and rewarding, particularly if they get our endorphins flowing. The complication is that we devalue delayed rewards — the feeling, for instance, of looking back on lovely moments with family — in favor of the immediacy of the new. In this case, it’s data. It makes us high.
“Smartphones capitalize on the weaker, short-term version of ourselves rather than helping us focus on the long view,” Stafford said.
They also help fill in the silent gaps in relationships, said Naomi Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “You can’t assume we always have something to say to each other,” she said. “Why do restaurants play music in the background? Because otherwise there’s the uncomfortable dead silence.”
So the dead space fills with more silence, and the intimacy that should be happening face-to-face now occurs between cellphone towers. A brief check on Facebook to fill silence with the missis turns into a 20-minute digital conversation. And a spouse watches her loved one slip away.
“This is not always the issue that brings couples to counseling, but eventually it comes out,” said Erin Morey, a family therapist in McLean. “There’s this isolation, the feeling that their partner is more connected to the gadget.”