The Smartphone Crisis
Lean Arnoco (The Freeman) - October 17, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines — Modern phones with internet, entertainment, voice recorder, photography, music player and other components to grab one’s attention and occupy one’s time all day long. The smartphone is, indeed, one of today’s most significant marvels. And the vast array of complementary technologies that work on the phone all the more make the thing difficult to put down or set aside, even just for a short while.

The smartphone consists of a good bunch of gadgets that used to fill a big bag. Now it simply fits the palm of the hand. Yet despite having been miniaturized, the different functions packed into the smartphone remain as big as they used to be as individual gadgets, maybe even better now that they’re put together. Of course, convenience is a big thing about it, too.

Lately, the smartphone has come to support the novelty of augmented-reality technology.

If a man on the street if asked if all this power and ability packed in a smartphone serves him right, the answer is most likely to be – “Well, yes! Absolutely!” But if he is asked further if the smartphone solves any problems he has with his life, the answer would most probably be – “Well, no. Absolutely not!”

Smartphones are not all good side. In fact, it can make one’s problems worse or it can create new problems. It can be such a distraction to trip off one’s work-and-life balance.

With smartphones so popular nowadays many people suffer from scattered demands on their attention, observes Mike Elgan in an article at “They want to accomplish more in their lives,” Elgan writes. “But smartphones are increasingly addictive and distracting; and as a result, it’s getting harder for people to pay attention to what they’re doing.”

Phones and mobile social media apps and sites are getting people hooked. Interestingly, they are not even aware that they’re wasting their lives on these technological novelties. Entire populations have become unwitting victims to technological addiction.

Many people are complaining for not getting to or not completing the important tasks that they need to do in a day. They’re always running out of time. And yet they have time for Facebook and for frequently checking their e-mails.

The distractions posed by gadgets have gotten people addicted. Many social media and internet ‘addicts’ confess that they know that their habit is eating away precious time – but they just can’t help it. It has overtaken their free will.

The creator of the Facebook “Like” button, Justin Rosenstein, admitted that his creation is part of the growing problem. He said he doesn’t allow himself to use Reddit or Snapchat, and he even restricts his use of Facebook. As soon as he bought his new iPhone, he instructed his assistant to lock it down with parental controls to prevent him from downloading apps.

Rosenstein is trying to avoid what is increasingly the new normal when it comes to mental state, which experts call “continuous partial attention,” according to Elgan. He adds that such state of mind measurably lowers one’s IQ and productivity, and emerges even when smartphones are nearby but not in use. He also cites the findings of a recent study that subjects spend an average of just two hours and 53 minutes doing productive work each day.

Another study found that the average smartphone user spends two hours and 25 minutes on his or her phone each day. ‘Heavy’ smartphone users average three hours and 45 minutes per day.) The amount of time people spend on their phones is said to grow every year. Inversely, the amount of time doing work probably declines. “Smartphones are driving a trend where frivolity is replacing productivity,” writes Elgan.

Elgan figures out the mechanism behind the Smartphone Crisis. “We live in an attention economy, and tech companies are in heated competition with one another to acquire our time and attention. In this Darwinian struggle, the most addictive and distracting products and services survive and thrive and come to dominate.”

He cites, as example, Facebook “bragging to its shareholders about the growing number of hours users spend on its sites and apps. All social sites are trying to hold their own against Facebook by trying to be as addictive as they can be.” In this scenario, user addiction is the thing to aim for.

Presently, smartphones have come to occupy what’s called a “privileged attentional space,” comparable to the sound of people’s own names. “Working with a smartphone nearby is attentionally similar to working while co-workers are standing there talking about you by name. It’s hard to focus,” Elgan explains.

On that note, the smartphone industry needs to do a better job offering anti-distraction, non-addictive smartphone solutions. Smartphone users also need to tighten their self-discipline. And companies can help with policies where it becomes unacceptable to bring smartphones into meetings.

The home is a crucial place for attitudinal change regarding smartphone shall start. There shall be no more using the phone after dinner and before breakfast. And no phones at the dining table.

Everyone deserves one another’s full attention. Thus, the population needs to get its attention back. (FREEMAN)

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