Maybe Not So Smart
Recently I crossed the Pacific Ocean twice coming and going to Nepal. This occasioned observing hundreds (probably more like thousands) of people in five major international airports. I became convinced of something long suspected: a large percentage of human beings with cell phones are addicted to them. One might use other words like obsession or infatuation or compulsion or passion, but addiction seems to hit the nail on the head.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) describes the condition thus: “Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.” In December 2017 Forbes published an article titled “Phone Addiction Is Real -- And So Are Its Mental Health Risks” which affirms the ASAM description.
One can only guess the actual statistics, but on my trip I observed a LARGE majority of people in airports constantly, I repeat, constantly with their noses pointed at their cell phones. They were not interacting with others or reading. If awake, their attention was directed to the device in their hand. They truly seemed incapable of doing anything but fiddle with their phones. Numerous studies have revealed that if people forget their phone, or if they lose power or signal, or if their phone is stolen or broken, anxiety – sometimes extreme – results.
There is something unhealthy about this of which most of the addicted are blissfully unaware. The internet is full of articles detailing this.
How to reverse this trend so that people actually talk face-to-face again – refreshing relationships and making new ones – is a crucial question. On the individual level, try this: leave your cell phone off for a period of time . . . half a day, a full day, several days . . . and see how it affects you. We used to live without them. While not throwing our phones out the window, perhaps it’s time to embrace some serious self-control with regard to their use.
The overall affect? Maybe smart phones aren’t as smart as we think they are.