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People Behaving Badly with Smart Phones

February 17, 2014, 1 Comment

iphoneHello. My name is Philip and I check my smart phone too much.

Just thought I would get that out there.

Many of us now carry around a smart phone. It is the device that promised to make your life easier. We were told that it would streamline our lives. But does it? Surely having unfettered access to email, social media, maps, games, and the collective information contained on the Internet should make life easier. What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?!?

I find, however, it makes too many us compulsive communicators, gamers, and knowledge-addicts. OK… so it makes me into that on some days. According to a Business Insider report that collected data from several sources, “we check our phones 150 times a day.” Did you see that? 150 times. The research varies in how much time it translates into but all of it ranges from 60-127 minutes of the day. Honestly, on some days, both of those figures feel on the low end.

Here are some of the ways that I find myself and many others behaving badly with our smart phones.

1. Using it as a clock. There is nothing inherently wrong with knowing what time it is. But when you wear a watch or glance at a clock on the wall, you find out what you need and move on. With a smart phone, we are suddenly drawn into a dozen distractions. I don’t know that I have an answer to this especially that an assortment of “smart watches” are already on the market. For me, it is resisting allowing checking the time to become the “gateway drug” into wasting time on an app.

2. Looking-down society. On a recent trip through a few airports I noticed just how many people consistently have their necked craned downward. No one looks at each other. Our phones have convinced us that no one else exists. Engaging smart phones give us an excuse to unnecessarily be alone. We are in a Looking-Down Society. The only antidote is to look up; to look around. The world of interactions is immeasurably more rewarding than the solitary life of playing apps.

3. Meeting chaos. I manage around 65 people at my company and therefore participate in lots of meetings. Smart phones are just about the worst addition to any meeting. People check emails, Twitter, and I’m sure play games while discussions happen without their input. When we should make significant decisions, mental chaos reigns because of distractions. As a leader or participant in a meeting, you must make the decision that your coworkers and the issue at hand are more important than the distraction.

4. Family disconnection. How many of us are guilty of carrying a smart phone to the dinner table; at home or out to eat? When we could hold a simple discussion, sometimes I find my own family in the same room, with the television on, and all four of us also operating our smart phones or tablets. The device designed to keep us connected when we are physically separated keeps us relationally separated when we are physically together. I find no inherent evil in being entertained by a game, reading emails, or cruising through a social media feed. But when any activity, including digital ones, begin to take my attention away from the primary relationships in my life, then it is time for a series check-up.

5. Inactivity. Smart phones give us unparalleled access to information that could lead to great adventures. You have a map that will give directions, apps that tell about your surroundings, and an Internet browser that can give information about anything on the Earth. But, we choose to play games, look at photos of others’ adventures on Facebook, and get bogged down in email instead. The device that can lead us to activity gives us the chance to sit down instead.

6. Experience life through a screen. I have attended several events like weddings, sporting events, and concerts where everyone was watching life happen through a four-inch screen rather than watch it in real life. The ability for a smart phone to be an ever-present camera is a huge blessing. You can capture a special moment and enjoy it later. But we are constantly in a mode of: take the picture, edit the picture, post the picture, and show the picture on our phone to others around us. Meanwhile, we are missing the actual event that we are supposedly commemorating.

All of this is to say that technology is only as helpful as the person who is using it makes it helpful. Any device can become a vice. Today, I’m hoping to sit my smart phone down and just let life happen.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Aaron Helman March 25, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I don’t have a smartphone… yet.

    Reason being, I don’t want to be one of “those people” who gets addicted to the thing, but I haven’t met anyone yet who has a smartphone but doesn’t become one of “those people.”

    Too much temptation for me to handle.

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