Smartphones induce dumb behaviour
The world today is too fluid for smartphones. Nowadays people do almost everything with this little glowing handset. We spend many hours a day surfing the web with the device. We send and read emails from our smartphones for business and pleasure. We post information, photos and comments on Facebook to connect with friends.
To kill a few seconds of boredom, many of us also take advantage of the phone's entertainment and media functions to fill almost every spare moment of downtime texting and socialising. Take a look around at people on the skytrain, for instance. You'll inevitably find them passing the time staring down at their mobile devices, checking on friends or playing a game.
People find it hard to tear themselves away from these little gizmos. The other day I saw a woman using her smartphone when exercising. As she was working out on a treadmill she used one hand to hold the machine's handlebar as she checked the social network on the phone. When she tried to text using both hands, she fell down and hurt her back, bottom and ankles.
Well, it's hardly surprising that she fell down. Walking or running on a narrow moving trail is already difficult enough. But she made things more difficult by walking and perusing her phone simultaneously. It's understandable that she switched her phone on when things got dull. Let's hope she learned a lesson from that painful incident.
One of my cousins is also a smartphone addict who constantly fools around with her iPhone. She sleeps with her phone within reach. When she opens her eyes in the morning, the first thing she looks at is her iPhone. Even when she's driving, she often has Facebook open and always keeps the phone on her lap. At a red light she often looks at her phone to read notifications. She has the device in her hand when she is having dinner. Her texting addiction worries my aunt that she might have an accident when she's driving or even that she might pull out her smartphone and text when a car is swerving towards her.
My cousin is a happy smartphone addict. She told me her iPhone helps her keep up with all the parts of her life and allows her to juggle everything. Once she has the device in her hand, it's hard for her to stop using it. And since she's grown accustomed to the constant stimulation offered by the phone's countless functions, she said she cannot live without it.
I've felt anxious on the few occasions I've left home without my mobile phone. While doing an errand, my mind was occupied by the thought of going home to get the phone. I felt cut off from the world. So, I think I understand my cousin.
I'm happy with the advantages of owning a smartphone. I actually feel better reading online on my phone than just watching soap operas. It also allows me to catch exciting news updates. But in some ways, I think it controls my life and is an ever-present distraction. I remember the good old days if we wanted to visit cousins we would simply go to their home. I remember doing crosswords to keep occupied after lunch. I remember my mind wandering thinking about something interesting while travelling on a bus.
And I don't agree with the claim that smartphones keep friends connected, because when we get together I'm often annoyed that some of them spend the entire time playing with their smartphones and barely say a word to other people at the table. Are we living in a world without boundaries in which millions of people are connected to the gizmo in their palms? Are we living in a world without rest where compulsive smartphone use can put us in dangers in many ways?
A phone is just a phone. I will try to reduce my dependence on the device and use it in more reasonable ways. I will try to use it more as a tool than a convenience so that I am able to be more active and creative in life.
Sukhumaporn Laiyok is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.