Sunday, June 9, 2013

Smartphones! Smart choice?

A few days back I was having a casual post lunch talk with a group of friends, when one of the guys took out his new smart phone and immediately another person extended his hand in with heightened enthusiasm to check it out. And I did the unthinkable mistake at that time of giving a sigh and passing a negative comment on Smart phones. It was indeed not a smart thing to do. For what followed for the next fifteen minutes was a war of words between the smart phone lovers and me; the smart phone lovers being almost everybody else in the group. To be frank what I was doing was actually trying to defend my statement without any logical backing to it, while the rest actually had me by my neck and were shooting away the usefulness of smart phones one after the other. A few of which I still remember and they were something like this.
  1. If one is driving in the night and does not know the way to where one is headed to, then by using a smart phone one can navigate and find his way immediately.
  2. As traffic information can be found out beforehand and it can be used to choose the best route anytime.
  3. One can send messages for free anytime.
  4. One can stay in touch with his friends all the time (facebook, twitter, Gtalk etc).
  5. One can contact anybody anytime.
  6. One can read any book that is stored in the smart phone anytime.
  7. One can take pictures anytime.
  8. One can watch a movie or listen to songs anytime.
  9. One can play video games anytime.
  10. One can search the internet anytime and can get whatever information one wants.

Well there were some more such things, but I would not put that here, because they were not specific to smart phones. For example someone said that she could find her friends with whom she had lost touch with through facebook. This example is more suited for usefulness of facebook than usefulness of smartphones.
And I have to admit that these examples are actually valid and do prove the usefulness of smartphones. There are of course many more ways in which the smart phone comes handy. For example when a lot of office work could get done before reaching office itself on the go. And hence smartphones are amazing. But nothing comes at a cost; the more amazing an experience is the costs for it also are higher. So what is that we fail to see about this amazing piece of gadget?

What are the costs ??

The snowballing effect of Instant gratification
What caught my attention later was the usage of words like immediately, anytime, without waiting in almost every usage that was mentioned about smartphones. This gadget indeed is a tool of instant gratification. The culture of instant gratification has made people very impatient and smartphone is the pinnacle of this culture.
Patience is a virtue as they say and it gives strength and character to a person. It is most needed in dealing with problems, tough situations, learning new things and above all in relationships. Impatience helps in moving things faster. It has its own place and context. But while it takes a lot of discipline, practice, hard work and character to develop a little patience it takes only a smartphone and such other things to reach the summit of impatience.

A false sense of knowledge
Two basic questions that come to my mind is that does having all information always at your finger tips really translate to knowledge? And secondly is all information really available?
Information when internalized and experienced becomes knowledge. But when the information is available so quickly people shy away from internalizing it, let alone experience it. So while people may find information in no time using their smart phones, I suspect knowledge will be a difficult thing to find in future.
And coming to my second question, can everything we experience be translated into information. Can the information be available ever be complete and objective? With internet becoming a highly competitive space for keyword based content creation what information we get is not merely what we are looking for, but what has been cleverly designed and created for us to find. And then if one has to experience fresh air and sun shine then one has to go out and experience it. This experience can not really be translated to information. Or can it be! I wonder because I have seen some people searching for ‘fresh air and sun shine’ on google.

Exposure to advertisement
It does not really take more than an ant’s brain to understand how advertising affects the society. By targeted conditioning and false trendsetting advertisements are aimed at increasing consumerism. And more such advertisements are aimed at the young people who are always looking for validation and acceptance. Because of ad conditioning and trendsetting, judgments are made on what kind of clothes people wear, what phone or car they have and not on who we really are. This leads to a certain degree of social discrimination and emotional insecurity, especially in younger population.
People who use smartphones are an easy target for advertisers. And this advertising is not random at all. Information is constantly collected from the phone about the person which are used in targeted advertising. So it is much easier to fall prey to such advertising as they are directed.

If one searches for smart phone addiction on the internet the results one gets is almost scary. More students in developed countries are addicted to their smart phones than even alcohol or drugs. The anxiety levels of such people shoots up when the battery is running low or a new application can not be updated. I suggest you do your own searching to find out more facts on this.
Short attention span
People are always doing so many things in parallel on their smartphones. This practice does have a negative effect on the attention span as people are not really focusing on one thing at a time. As people get used to doing (or at least believing so though it may not be actually happening) many things in parallel attention is always divided and it becomes difficult then to focus, thus resulting in short attention span.

Health issues
For people who have not reached puberty, concentrating on smart phones and playing games in that could cause imbalance in brain development. In youth the left brain develops first followed by right brain. Smartphones accelerate the growth of left brain and hinder the development of right brain, thus causing imbalance.
Also due to overuse of smartphones cases the stress and posture related problems are also going up. Eyes, ears, neck, spine, fingers can be damaged irreparably because of overuse of smart phones.

Workplace in future
As smart phones become more common their usage will go up to do official work. I am afraid it will reach a point where it will be an expectation for people to deal with office work outside office using their smart phones. Those who will not do will be left behind by those who comply to it. The targets of companies will become even more unrealistic causing even more stress. The laptop and VPN has already infringed upon social and family life of people to a great extent. Whatever is remaining will be finished by smartphones. And by the way nobody gets paid extra now for doing work from home outside office hours. So I don’t think people will be paid extra when using smartphone for work becomes an unwritten rule.

Homes in future
Because of television and computers already the world is witnessing a decline in family conversations. Imagine what it will be with smartphones in future. In fact its already happening. Children are on their phones chatting to friends or watching a video someone forwarded. The father is busy answering some business mails on his smartphone, while mom is watching her favourite soap on her smartphone while preparing dinner. For me this situation does not look very healthy.

Smatphones are highly loaded gadgets with some cool features, which are very useful. But there are some costs an individual and the society has to bear for this gadget. And it ultimately comes down to choice, which is guided by what we value in our lives.

p.s. Some of the material here has been directly/indirectly borrowed from various sources in the internet. I have been able to put two sources here. I could not locate the other sources as I had been through them long time back.

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