To say that smartphones have not made our lives easier would be a lie. Smartphones are revolutionary, and indeed make things easier for us. We can take a picture and send it to someone across the world. We can communicate with those peasants on earth whilst on a plane gifted with WiFi. We can transfer money to our checking accounts as we stand in line at Chipotle. We can self-diagnose our latest health concern. What a time to be alive. But what are the costs of giving our time and attention to these technologically advanced boxes?
Texting and communicating through a screen is beginning to replace face-to-face interactions. Look around you right now; I bet there are multiple people scrolling through their social media news feeds, taking a close up picture of that cute guy for Snapchat or texting their mom their latest Economics exam grade. Technological communication is everywhere, and it is slowly replacing human communication. And to think that our ancestors picked a mate by making a phone call and scheduling a date.
Although I enjoy the sweet freedom our smartphones give us in the wake of boredom, I have recently done a bit of observing to see how our addiction to technology is affecting us. We have all heard the argument that our addiction to our phones is ruining us and robbing us of real human interaction. What can you say, the older generation is worried about us millennials! But I have found that the issue with our phones is not that we are using them to communicate because, again, it is pretty incredible that we can even do that. The problem is that we are using technology – our smartphones especially – aimlessly, as a way to stave off boredom and to trick our minds into thinking we are doing something productive when in fact, we are not. As a result, we are becoming complacent and lazy.
Texting someone to determine their whereabouts or to ask a quick question is easy and gets the job done fast, but why has this type of communication become the primary form of interaction? When was the last time you picked up the phone to talk with someone rather than carrying on a conversation through your screen?
It has gotten to the point where we will gather together to “hang out” but we all end up sitting there in silence scrolling through news feeds on our phones, occasionally raising our heads to share the latest joke we’ve found. We are literally handing our social skills over to this small piece of technology.
I also find this fixation with our phones incredibly rude and distracting, especially in a classroom or professional setting. Sure, perusing the depths of our social media news feeds is an easy remedy for situations that are not always mentally stimulating, but it is not exactly appropriate when in the presence of someone imparting knowledge upon us.
Not only is our smartphone obsession affecting our attention spans, but a recent NPR story revealed research suggesting that our brains need downtime. By reflexively checking our phones and looking at a screen, even in moments of slight boredom, we are hurting our brain by not giving it the time its needs to recoup. The research shows that we are at our most creative when we are a little bored, so by picking up our phones when boredom strikes we are actually stunting our creativity.
Next time you find yourself in a setting where you could continue scrolling on your phone or start a conversation with those around you, pick the latter. Phones and technology are fun, but sometimes we need to unshackle ourselves from them in order to live in the moment and enjoy what is in front of us. We could use some more real interaction. After all, it is better for our brains.
Collegian Columnist Zara DeGroot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @zar_degroot.