Today there is a more complete, intricate, and accessible web of information in the world than ever has existed before – an “Age of Information,” as it has been called. Technology is developing at an astonishing rate, facilitating new kinds of utility and entertainment that were unimaginable ten years ago. The process of human communication has evolved into a multi-faceted one in our time, with texting, instant messaging, and video calling joining face-to-face relations among what are now the normal methods of our interaction.
Encapsulating and defining the rapid advances of our time is the smartphone, a palm-sized device that, with proper application, has the potential to make its user smarter.
Information is easy to access with the smartphone and its constant connectivity to the Internet – it only takes a few taps and a couple of milliseconds to discover boundless data on countless topics, making learning easier and assisting curious impulses. The variety of apps available for the smartphone makes it a powerful tool of both utility and enjoyment that is applicable to every situation. With a smartphone, it’s possible to plot a route, fling some virtual birds at virtual (and inexplicably green) pigs, and read up on world issues, all within the span of a few minutes.
The smartphone is doubtless a tool that has the power to make its user master of his or her own sector of the digital world. But, as is true for most tools, the smartphone is a dual-sided blade, and it can cut its consumer as much as it can help them.
One detriment of the smartphone is that it encourages impersonal communication. It’s a tool of texting that entices its user to maintain a secondary, typed dialogue accompanying that of their daily life. The image of the teenager plopping his or her smartphone down next to their plate at the start of a meal, and referring back to it frequently despite the real-life conversation going on is one that has only lost its shock value due to its appalling frequency. The smartphone leeches its owner’s life, a constant presence demanding to be fed and maintained.
Overdependence upon the smartphone is an easy rut to fall into. Since the device can do anything and everything, after all, why bother using anything else? This is an unhealthy way to consider the technology available to us; it makes us as people less independent and increasingly reliant on a technology that could fail at any time.
Time can fly away from a person when they are multitasking on their smartphone, flitting from app to app with a hollow appetite. Multitasking is what the smartphone is designed for, and multitasking decays the attention span. Boredom is obsolete for the smartphone owner, defeated by the ability to dart between games and the Internet at the speed of whim. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing – boredom was the spark of previous generations’ ingenuity and productivity.
The smartphone, used without caution and self-awareness, can be the center of a circle of self-damage, wastefulness, and depersonalization for its owner just as easily as it can be a gateway to easier living and enlightenment. Without a doubt, the smartphone has great power – we just need to learn the great responsibility that should go with it.