The new IPhone 6 is coming out in 9 days. Did you know?
Cellphones allow us to e-mail, text, tweet, snapchat, FaceBook, Facetime, Google Group, Skype or just plain call someone. Through our cellphones, we can communicate with approximately two billion other cellphone users. Our favorite apps help us find our way when lost, play games, charge electric cars, shoot videos, search the Internet, play music, set alarms, watch TV and just about everything else but scratch an itch. Cellphones are our saviors when our car breaks down, they keep us in touch with loved ones while traveling, they help us to coordinate our meetings, and they keep up-to-date on the news and weather. Although cell phones cost a lot of money, they are a bargain given all the things they allow us to do.
The first computer I ever used was at Southern Ohio College. This was pre-Internet. Yes, there was such a time, long long ago. This IBM computer had TWO floppy disk drives, allowing me to copy from one disk to the other. I used the word processing program. It was great for typing handouts and tests. It was a powerful tool. My cell phone today is a substantially more powerful. In my house, my wife and I have cellphones, IPads, and an Apple computer. We are issued laptop computers at work. We have cable TV, Apple TV, and DVD. Yes, we own quite a bit of technology. The technology allows us to do many amazing things. But, while all this technology is incredible, the gizmos have a dark side. People use them way too much. I wonder if people are using their cellphones as important tools to accomplish well thought out purposes. Are people finding a good balance in their use of technology or are they using their cell phones for 24/7 entertainment and companionship?
Cell phones are like drugs; they are addictive. When I stop at a light, I notice how many people turning in front of me are on the phone. About half. When I see a driver who is weaving in and out of the lane or driving too slow, I check them out as I carefully pass. Most have a cellphone glued to their ear. As I walk down the sidewalk to the Student Center, and I notice how many people are talking on their phones. Most. I enter my classrooms and see every single person on their phones or computers. No-one is talking to the person next to them. How many hours per day are you on your computer or phone? Do you get anxious if you haven’t checked your e-mail in the past five minutes? Is your cellphone the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning? Do you spend more time updating your profiles than you do studying or going out with friends? When you go out with friends, do you spend most of your time on your cellphones talking to other friends about what you are supposedly doing with your friends?
One of our basic needs is to feel connected to others. When we e-mail a large group, we’ll always get a few responses. The reward center of our brain is stimulated. If we post to Facebook, someone will “like” what we post. We feel better. We’re connected. We get attention. If we aren’t socially connected, we settle for being distracted. There are plenty of distractions on our cellphones. TV shows, games, music, viral videos, or celebrity news keep us entertained. While watching, we don’t feel quite so bad. It’s easy because it a passive activity. If we are bored by a TV show, we switch to another channel. If that’s boring too, we read our email. When we finish, we look on the Internet for new clothes. Little effort is required. The little bit of time lost here and there doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. Nothing about the cellphone is necessarily bad–the cellphone is a great piece of technology. It can enhance interpersonal relationships when it is used well. Problems arise when the cellphone becomes a drug. This makes us forget that our primary source of happiness depends upon the quality of the relationships we have with others. The cellphone entices us to settle for a kind of second-hand passive existence. People addicted to drugs live a life where the focus of their day is on getting high. People addicted to their cellphones spend their day living in the artificial world of the Internet.
If you think you may be using your cellphone too much, try going for one entire day without using it unless there’s an emergency. Does the thought frighten you? Will you be bored? Think about something constructive you can do. Talk to your neighbor. Make good use of your free time. Are you anxious? Think about what’s so important about being on the phone at that moment. Do you really need to know what your friends are doing every second? Are you out of breath, drooling, vomiting, passing out, or screaming at strangers? If so, get some help. Your cell phone is a drug and you are an addict.