In the past decade, the exponential increase in cell phone usage has spread across our planet like the bubonic plague. At any time, and in every instance, you can socialize with your family and friends without ever having seen them in the flesh. Holistically, the advancement in technology is indistinguishable from magic in the eyes of a person who existed just a mere 60 years ago. We continually share our moments in the hope that someone will experience something as we do, vicariously. Now that mega-companies like Apple and Samsung have commandeered the mobile device market, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself wavering over which version to buy or how the cutting-edge features will change your life for the better. This undying need to upgrade our cell phone apparatus has softened the fabric of living. By concentrating on things that are seemingly important, we deprive ourselves of what’s most important: experience.
Although cellular devices are a conduit for information, it only strengthens our need for them. Social media is the mainspring behind our society’s obsession with cellphones. Every 10 seconds, people are checking applications for all the wrong reasons; i.e., reasons that aren’t conducive to enjoying the short time on this planet. And, as time goes on, it won’t be until something catastrophic or life altering happens that you’ll suddenly realize all the time you wasted on trivial things. In terms of convenience, it’s tremendously easier to converse with people behind a screen, mainly because it’s less awkward and you have extra time to think of quality responses. But it certainly doesn’t make the dialogue any more genuine. If anything, it depreciates the value of the communication because it’s artificial. From time to time, I’ll receive a jolt of insincerity in my bloodstream and actually catch myself responding with something I would never say in person. This almost feels like I’m cheating sociological etiquette. Many lies are manufactured in this fashion because the repercussions aren’t noticeable and you can always blame the device’s ineptitude.
The newly coined term “Nomophobia” – Fear of being without one’s cell phone – has been slowly creeping into the ranks of psychology. The psychological attachment that has been acutely affecting teenagers is slowly spreading to all age brackets because of our dependence on these devices. Our working memory has been deteriorating because of the accessibility of anything we want to know via Google or wikiHow. Before cell phones, people made it a priority to remember things. Basically, there was no other choice: remember something or screw yourself over. Now, we rely so heavily on searching for and sifting out answers that we make ourselves self-insufficient. I can guarantee you that our parents are more independent and self-sufficient than we are essentially because we don’t push anything into long-term memory – it’s all transitory.
In the near future (the next generation), I can see our youngsters truly being overwhelmed by cell phone usage that will lead them to a sort of ‘mobile device rehab,’ if you will. Kids are being tossed mobile devices in infancy now; even if it’s a tablet or laptop, this cannot bode well for the future of cognitive expansion. Our brains work best by being thrown a wide variety of different things and learning many facets of life. Life should be spent by appreciating the moment and being grateful for things you have, rather than catering to the interest of other people’s experience. Life is teeming with uncharted experiences that are there for free, and enjoying them may involve sacrificing the thing that’s tied to your hand. I’m definitely guilty of unremitting cell phone handling, and I’m probably falling victim to cell phone addiction, but I’m glad I’m not oblivious to it. Here’s a recent incident during which I found myself perturbed about being without my phone…
I had boarded a plane with about 38 percent battery life (because Apple likes us to lose our minds over this battery problem) with airplane mode turned on. My music was playing while I read a book because the plane was exceptionally noisy. The amount of attention and comprehension I was devoting the book I was poring over had been typical. When my battery crossed the 10 percent threshold, since I’m so hyper-vigilant, I began to feel uneasy. Anxiety was brewing in me and I couldn’t focus on the book; instead, my only thought was how the hell am I going to continue reading without music from my phone? Granted, I was still – unconsciously and unbeknownst to myself – checking my phone as if it weren’t on airplane mode, as if I’d magically get a text message or update while I was 35,000 feet above the surface. Once my phone fully died, I dropped the book. I then had a profound epiphany and harkened back to the times when I was without a cell phone in life, such as when I was a kid. I noticed how my senses were a lot deeper and more powerful. I would appreciate the small things in life and take heed of what’s going on around me. The realization that I came to was that being with a cell phone nonstop is synonymous with walking through life blindfolded–unable to discern the meaningless from the significant aspects of life.
This is no cell phone embargo. I’m going to continue to explore the perks of my phone; it’s our prerogative as humans. But I will drop it when it’s not needed or when I want to challenge myself to learn things the more authentic way. It will be interesting to see how things unfold. Hopefully, we can come to a better understanding of what’s important and what isn’t.