How have smartphones changed us? I was an initial resister to the smartphone, having vague “mental health” concerns about intrusiveness, getting overly attached to my device, not being present in the moment, and being tracked by government agencies just because they could (not because I had anything of interest going on.)
I got my first smartphone in 2011 when the Iphone came out from Verizon, the best carrier for reception on Maui (from my anecdotal personal gossip research.)
Almost immediately, all of the above concerns became realities.
- The phone was intrusive. Mostly because I became so attached to it. I keep all notifications turned off, and still it calls to me like theOne Ring to Gollum. Like so many people, I’ve experienced becoming anxious if it’s was misplaced or physically distant from me. This is a semi-problem but I’m monitoring my symptoms (much as Gollum did, alas.)
- The government and businesses and others ARE tracking us. Way more than any of us want to know. I’ve used this trackability in Unsound as a major plot point. I worry about the abuse of phone tracking. A lot. But not enough to get rid of my smartphone. My Preciousssss…. >.<
- Not being present in the moment due to phone use frequently happens. However, I would argue this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many moments aren’t that great: Waiting in line at the grocery store/bus stop/train station/airport etc, noisy restaurants by yourself, on the toilet in a public bathroom. All of these can now be moments of connection (and playing Words with Friends, my personal addiction) uplift via looking at gorgeous photos on Instagram, and news updates via Twitter, the news source of real people EVERYWHERE in the world. You can’t control Twitter!
I’ve noticed that in addition to the things I was worried about, a lot of other things are happening. These I classify under the category of “emerging phenomena.”
- New social etiquettes are arising around phones. It used to be considered rude to work your phone with other people. Now, phones seem to provide an imaginary “cone of isolation” around people when they want to distance themselves from a group they’re in, even among friends. Someone on their phone, working it with thumbs, scrolling, etc, is now someone considered “busy” and not to be bothered by others. Getting your phone out has become a way to pull down a privacy screen. We all politely ignore each other as we work crosswords and play Candy Crush and update Facebook. (I especially noticed these behaviors on the public transpo I rode this summer.)
- New creativity is arising because of smart phones. Read an amazing article on all the art and creativity exploding through apps and sharing in the cover story of WIRED magazine: “How the mobile age sparked a creative explosion” and loved it, because I would never be taking the photos I do and exploring photography without my smartphone. (Wrote this blog post about it, too) I discovered video because of the smartphone, and wrote about that too! Life Lessons one second every day of video is teaching me
- The world is a small and connected place because of smartphones. Yeah yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but dang. To have a friend through social media, locate them when you’re in town, get Google directions and meet them at a coffee bar and suddenly you’re friends IRL is just something wonderful to experience and it can, and is, happening all over the globe.
- Smartphones spawn microbusinesses. I just took my dog to the groomer, a young, hip, tatted-up woman who loves dogs and has a small rented space near my vet. We made appointment on smartphone, she sent Google reminder, I paid with my credit card on Square on her smartphone, the receipt was emailed to me instantly. Have smartphone, have business! Easy, paperless, and totally portable. I call that awesome, and it’s changing the world.
Smartphones make new experiences. Recently, as I’ve been gushing about everywhere, five of my books came out read by the incomparable sexy amazing voice actress Sara Malia Hatfield. I was NOT an audiobook person prior to this, but with hearing my books brought to life as an incentive, I navigated the astonishingly easy process of setting up an Audible account, purchasing the book(s), downloading the phone app, and then listening to it. I listen via aux cable in the car through speakers, on a wireless Bluetooth, on a wireless speaker device. And, miracle of miracles, my nonreading husband got totally hooked on the books! He binge-listened to them. He was even listening on wireless headphones to the audiobook on his phone from Honolua Bay where he was photographing the Maui Women’s Pro surf contest, deep in the excitement of Black Jasmine while taking pictures AND simultaneously watching the live streaming webcast on his HTC Android phone. If that isn’t multi-sensory stimulation, I don’t know what is!
- Smartphones can help us change habits and improve mental health. I came up with my own therapy technique for my clients struggling with phobias and anxiety using the smartphone. I use neurolinguistic programming to have a client write ten positive beliefs they would like to have about a feared or negative experience. Then, I do a light hypnosis/guided visualization exercise for 15-20 minutes with them, using their own desired words/outcomes, recording the whole session with the voice memo feature on their phone. I then have them listen to the audio recording multiple times a week. Clients have reported amazing results! I also use parents’ smartphones to record interactions with their children in family sessions and then discuss/review video to practice new and better ways to parent.
- Mental health and lifestyle apps can get us healthier. There are a host of these. I’m using SportsTracker and My Fitness Pal apps myself to help me improve health and fitness, but there are zillions, including ones targeted specifically for mental health.
Overall, the implications of the mobile lifestyle and use of these little computers we carry in our pockets is far-reaching, still expanding, and mostly unknown. But I for one, LOVE all the ways smart phones have enhanced our lives, not least of which, whenever I want to read a book I just click on my Kindle app and have thousands of titles right there at the touch of a finger.
Boredom is a thing of the past, and that’s the biggest way smart phones have changed us. What ways do YOU think smartphones have changed us, and do you like the trends?
I still have mixed emotions. I finally broke down and got one over the summer, and I do love it. I love having your books (and other books too, I admit it) at my fingertips. I love the random little games I play. But at the same time I do hate it when people I’m supposed to be spending time with are all busy checking their facebook on their phones while I’m talking to them. It’s like, dude, if I’m boring you, then say something, change the subject, do something – don’t just turn me off. I came here to spend time with you. And it was super frustrating when I didn’t have one and I’d be at a table at work and literally everyone else would be buried in them and there I’d be, isolated and bored. So yeah, social interaction is still iffy where they are concerned. But they have some awesomeness too, which you have captured quite nicely here. 🙂
I still think smartphoning while with others is rude and I call people on it if I have to. But I admit to sneaking a peek at a restaurant or something while the hubby’s in the bathroom…:)
Great post, Toby! I agree with so much of it! I hear thousands of comments about how we’re not spending time with those right in front of us… But how many times am I talking with them anyway?! And waiting in lobbies, waiting rooms and myriad other places I have to “wait;” I’d rather be reading a book in which I’m interested instead of whatever magazine that’s on the table. And to think that I have (most, if not) all of the accumulated knowledge in the (English-speaking) world in my pocket and I can find the answer to anything in a matter of seconds! The smart phone has enriched my life. (But only slightly more than your blog…)
You are too kind, sir! The only real downside to the phone is going through withdrawals when we don’t have them available, in my honest opinion. So i put it away for a day now and again to make sure I can still live without it!