In these 30 years, society has changed dramatically with the incursion of mobiles phones. At the beginning only wealthy people or really busy people where the owners of this devices but now everyone has one from the 7 year old boy to the 80 year old woman. Mobile phones have also changed we do not use them just for calling; new technologies have made them capable of doing almost everything. The impact these devices have in our lives is becoming overwhelming; some people may say it is a bad impact whereas other might say is a good impact. But how to know if it is really a bad or a good impact and most important how big is this impact? With this essay we are not trying to give a definitive answer to these questions but we want to expose different changes, good ones and bad ones, that smartphones have brought to our lives and thus allow the reader to make their own decision about whether smartphones are a blessing or a nightmare.
Smartphones: blessing or nightmare?
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein.
Today’s world is full of technology; every place we go has, in somehow, a technological advance. Nowadays it is hard to think about a world without technology; for younger generations talking about this is like talking about a distant past. One of the most powerful inventions has been the mobile phone; “it is going to help us to be in touch with our family and friends” was the thought that we had in mind when we bought our first mobile. Little did we know that within 30 years we would be surrounded by these gadgets. Today’s mobile phones are more than a device used to call people; they have become in “our lives”. These devices are both good and bad to society because they have change the way we connect with others but they also have change our way to behave in the society.
Before talking how good or bad has been the impact of these smartphones in our lives, it is necessary to give a detail description of what a smartphone is.
“A smartphone is a mobile telephone with a display screen, built-in personal information management programs (such as an electronic calendar or address book), typically found in a personal digital assistant (PDA), and an operating system (OS) that allows other computer software to be installed for web browsing, email, music, video, and other applications. A smartphone may be thought of as a handheld computer integrated within a mobile phone” (Curley, 2012, p.103).
Knowing what a smartphone is we can see why is has become so popular, we can do almost everything with our smartphone, the most important thing is that we can do it whenever we want and wherever we are. This is a good thing because multitasking is something mankind has wanted to improve, especially in this world where time is money. But is it really a good thing? How deep is the influence of smartphones in our lives? Are we relying too much in our smartphones?
Although our smartphones are a great invention studies have proven that the impact in our work life and in our private life is not always positive; in fact MacCormick, Dery, Kolb (2012) have found different types of behaviour according to our need to be connected with the world; this is really interesting because is the first clue we have to see how life changing can be a smartphone.
The first field that should be covered is the work field and this is not because is the most important; it is because the behaviours adapted in our jobs have a strong influence in our personal life.
It is not to be said that smartphones are not helpful in our jobs, actually they have become in the Holy Grail, in our bible if we can say so. Everywhere we take a look we can see businessmen and women with a blackberry, iPhone or android in their hands. They can be having lunch but at the same time they can have a chat with their client who lives across the world. MacCormick, Dery, Kolb (2012) establish that in business we can find three types of behaviour according to the engagement they have with their jobs. The three types already mentioned are the hypo-connectors, the dynamic connectors, and the hyper-connectors.
The hypo-connectors are afraid of being constantly connected because they think that this would not help to improve their engagement with their jobs; they do not want to adopt the new technologies. For them work should be done during working hours; they do not want to have a smartphone. They think that these gadgets are going to keep them connected 24/7. This is no such a good think because when these people start to isolate from the technology they also start to be left out from important things at work. The hyper-connectors are the other extreme; they are available all the time, they spent their free time doing things related to their jobs. They think they are more productive than the others because they work more but the fact is that the hyper-connectors are also less engaged than other because they do not recover properly and when this happen the communication starts to be less productive; sure they do answer more emails and take more decisions but not all the time these answers or decisions are accurate. The last group to be talked about are the dynamic connectors; these are those people that can find a balance between the demands of their jobs. They know when the level of work is high they have to be hyper-connectors but when the level of work is low they have to be hypo-connectors. Most of the dynamic connectors know when to shut down their smartphones, so they do not interfere with their personal life.
When doing the research MacCormick, Dery, Kolb (2012) found that there is a love-hate relationship between the people and their smartphones. People said that when they go on holidays to take a break, they do not feel like in holidays anymore because they have to carry with their smartphone; but they are also aware that they are not able to let the smartphone because they need it. It is a necessary evil. Most of the people interviewed during their research said they had control over the device; they were able to shut it down and leave it aside. But these people were not able to acknowledge that their statement were not true at all; in fact they were behaving like addicts, denying they inability to truly disconnect from their smartphones.
One might think that this type of behaviour showed before it is only affecting the businessmen and women in their place of work. However it is common to see families complaining about the lack of interested that these people show towards them. We can see parents going to their children soccer game but not paying attention to the game; families having dinner in a restaurant but one of the parents, in most cases both, are not completely involved in the family time.
Saying all this we can see as we established before that the impact caused by smartphones in our lives is not only affecting the big entrepreneurs or those whose job is related with big companies. It is actually impacting our private life as well.
These days it is common to see more people “talking” to their smartphone than talking to the person next to them. What we might have thought it was madness some years ago today is completely normal and that is to see people laughing alone with their smartphone. No, they are not crazy they just received a SMS (short message service) or an email, who knows. It is also familiar to see people having a date but instead of being talking about their lives and mutual things they might like they are just watching their smartphones, downloading applications, probably the other person talked about one they did not have, and so on.
All these behaviours are becoming in habits, it is something we might not be aware of but it does exist. Studies have tried to answer the questions related to the creations of these habits. Oulasvirta, Rattenbury, Ma, Raita (2012) found in their study one habit that is particular associated with the smartphones and is the checking habit, which is the constantly looking at our smartphones without reason; this pattern is especially triggered by those moments of micro boredom such as bus trips, lectures, waiting period, etc. Some of the people surveyed said this habit was annoying but others justified their constant checking saying it was for fun or just to kill the time. This investigation also allowed identifying three types of reward values linked with the checking habit. The first reward was informational, like checking the clock, this reward does not involved much interaction with the smartphone; the second one was interactional this was related with the social interaction a user can get for checking other user’s updates and for posting their new updates; and the last one is the awareness value which was related with all the new information an user can get when they look their smartphones but for these users the new information is not entirely new they are just refreshing their email inbox or checking their social network update just to see if there is something they have not seem.
Having considered the impact that smartphones have in our live, like the change in our behaviour and the habit created, it is also reasonable to take a look to the things that are going to linked us even more with our gadgets. As it was said before the smartphones are not just for calling or checking our email; there also exist the applications which are a piece of software that we can download to our device, sometimes are free sometimes we have to pay, and they help us to have a more personalized smartphone.
There are thousands of applications; some of them are really good while some others are just a waste of time. As Siewiorek (2012) says in his article we are a generation smartphone which means that most of our lives are managed by using a smartphone; he starts talking about a hypothetical situation in a near future, a baby born in the 2020, and how the smartphones and specially the applications are able to make his life easier, not only when he is a baby but also when he is an adult. He also declares that if today we think that people do not do anything without looking at their mobile, we have not seem anything compare to what is going to happen in the future. We do not have to go so far to establish that our smartphones play an important part in our lives; if we want to look for an address we immediately take our smartphone, go to our map application, type the address and within seconds we know where it is and if we want to know how to get there the application is also able to do it.
While almost all the population think that these applications are only to improve our daily basis, the fact is that every day is more common to see how great companies are using the smartphones and their applications to make great developments which are going to help not only us, the regular human being, but also it would help doctors to improve treatments and to diagnose diseases in short time. An example of this that “the inform Exercise Coach for knee osteoarthritis uses accelerometers and gyroscopes to track motion during rehabilitation exercises and correct errors” (Siewiorek, 2012). Applications of this kind are a great help for doctors because they are able to check if the exercises that the patient has to do at home are being done correctly.
According to Hassler (2012) applications are not the only thing evolving; the fact that today in our iPhones Siri exists is enough evidence to realize that the role of the smartphone has not yet reached its peak. One day our smartphones will not only be able to receive and process information but they will be able to generate new information through our environment and to communicate it not only to us but to everyone who needs it such as doctors, romantic prospects, police department, etc.
Yes, smartphones have had a great impact in our lives. It is impossible to imagine a life without smartphones but how far should we let the smartphones penetrate our lives? As it can be seen we are changing and this change is due to the incursion of these gadgets. Smartphones took the world by storm, no one was prepared for this and for this reason that we have not taken this correctly. Sure they are a great thing and they make our lives easy but is not very high the price we have to pay? We live in a society with a huge lack of values where the welfare of the individual takes precedence over the welfare of the society and instead of getting together we are breaking apart with stuffs like smartphones which only increase the isolation and the individualism. Are we going to let that something like this happen?
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