Over the past decade, the smartphone has become embedded in our modern culture.
If somehow you’ve failed to notice, look around you. On the street, around the quad, sitting in Starbucks and in the middle of class, just about everyone you see has a cell glued to their hand. My own grandfather uses his smartphone more than I use my regular cell phone (or “dumb-phone” as some like to call it), and there are plenty of school-aged children walking around with an iPhone.
This may be hard to believe, but the U.S. is not even the most “smartphone-addicted” country: we fall short to both Japan and South Korea.
Have smartphones changed our societal norms?
The age of the smartphone has rapidly altered the way people choose to communicate. Phones are always advancing and making peoples’ lives more convenient, or lazy, allowing a variety of communication lines that connect world. Apps keep social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, at our fingertips.
Now that we have the ability to connect with anyone at any time, we are expected to do so. “The social norm is that you should respond within a couple of hours, if not immediately,” David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, told the New York Times. Is all this connectivity a bad thing?
Are our phones hurting us?
Smartphones are powerful, and they have an irresistible pull.
“We have to have it,” said Priscilla Andrade, a 21 year-old Spanish major at BU, of the technology. People tend to spend a lot of time staring at their screen, which cuts into their time socializing with people in the real world. The 2013 Mobile Mindset Study revealed that 60 percent of U.S. smartphone users “don’t go an hour without checking their phones.” People are putting their social energy into their devices rather than their friends, family, colleagues and partners. Walk into Starbucks, the Husky Lounge, or any eatery on campus. Look around the place and I guarantee you that there are multiple tables where people are on their phones, engaged with someone other than who is across from them.
People get so absorbed into connecting with faraway people on their devices that they ignore whomever is right next to them. One extreme example happened quite recently on Sept. 23, 2013 on a train in San Francisco, Calif. A man walked aboard brandishing a gun amongst a crowded car full of passengers. Each and every one of those passengers was so absorbed in their device that they didn’t take notice, and a college student was shot and killed. The man then proceeded to hop off the train and walk home, not linked to the crime until weeks later when security footage was reviewed.
Things aren’t all that bad.
Not everyone is convinced that smartphones are doing us harm.
“People blame cell phones for making them less social, but I think it’s just themselves,” said Andrade. Besides, there are way too many great things that smartphones accomplish. A brief survey of BU students revealed that they primarily use their cells for texting, tweeting and for the taking and sharing of photos. Some, also, use their smartphones to keep track of their calendars and email.
“I need to be organized. I have a lot going on,” said Drew Demarcantino, a 21 year-old Telecommunications major at BU. Students use smartphones for more than just organization. The apps that students use most are Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, all of which are geared towards their social lives.
People are also moving away from the need to remember small pieces of information. Why bother when you can just Google them? Contact lists eliminated the need to memorize phone numbers, and now smartphones take that to the next level by letting one look up maps, weather, local businesses, music, videos, games, shopping… The list goes on, and this information is all available anytime, anywhere.
All of that knowledge and convenience is so addicting that we now feel as if our phones are an extension of ourselves. If we lose our cell, it is as if we have lost a limb. Yet, bringing a smartphone everywhere with you is not always safe.
During homecoming festivities, a girl and her friends were on the roof of their building. Her phone started to slide off the roof, but she quickly caught it. While her friend was laughing at the almost mishap, that friend’s phone slid and actually fell off the roof, bouncing off a car before finally hitting the ground two stories below.
One night, Wendy went into the bathroom to video chat with her new boyfriend. The call went through, but she got no video signal from him. Wendy decided to use the bathroom while she waited for her man to call back. She set the phone, facing up on the sink and proceeded to “murder” the bathroom, as she put it. Almost finished with her business, Wendy heard laughter bursting from her phone. Her beau didn’t have a front facing camera and the call had never been disconnected, therefore the guy had heard every last noise.
It is inevitable that smartphones are here to stay and will only progress to provide us with more apps and convenience. There are benefits of this digital limb in the age of global connectivity, and there are also drawbacks, such as the sad case of the student on the San Franciscan train. But where can we go from here? What’s next for the world of cellular devices: genius-phones?
This piece is a collaborative effort of Nicholas Cellucci and A. Zoe Baldwin.