When dumber is better

We live in a world where really smart people do really dumb things. We call phones with computer-like abilities “smart,” letting them think for us, as we slowly become the dumb ones. We put a lot of information out there without slowing down to consider the ramifications. As a society, we have become so susceptible to the enticing seduction of smart phones, selling our souls for these electronic brains that think for us, speak for us and do for us. We are becoming outsmarted by technology. Ring the alarm — it’s a real epidemic.
One of my favorite things to reflect upon is how amazing it would be to not have a neurotic obligation to our phones, these tricky little devices that make us feel like we have convenience at our fingertips when really, we are made their puppets, constantly controlled and attached to their digital allure. I wonder how many people that are left, like me, who long for the ability to feel indifferent and detached from our phone. I love my chinky, bright blue “dumb” phone (what I call my non-smart phone – i.e. a phone without a data plan), because of its inability to connect to the internet, therefore exempting me from being held always responsible for staying up-to-the-minute with my email, Facebook, etc.

I often wonder how it would be if we could just totally “unplug” for periods of time. I think about how stress-free it would be to escape the pressure to check our email and text messages, which contribute to feeling the constant need to tend to every instant need of those who call upon us, inciting fear within each of us at the mere thought of how angry someone will be if we don’t respond within a “reasonable” time frame.

The rise of smart phones has proven great strides in modern technology, reinforcing the idea that the futuristic dream of yesterday can be today’s immediate, tangible possibility. It has provided an entire new world of potential, with one amazing quirk after another, but at the same time, the more we become obsessed and invested in the pocketable communicative devices, the more dangerous a line we walk. With each “advancement” we further our enthrallment with simply a piece of technology, always striving to make each new phone or app better than the last. But it all comes at a cost.

“More and more people are buying smartphones because they can surf the web, text message, watch television and video highlights, as well as many other functions beyond the capability of regular cell phones,’ says internationally renowned dating and relationship coach and author, David Wygant, in his article “Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid?”

But the more “plugged in” we get, we become more disengaged with our real-life relationships. Not who we text or whose “wall” we post on, but who we talk to and develop interpersonal relations with and how. We spend so much time developing technological devices to “communicate” with, but our human communication skills fall to pieces with the baggage of smart phones. More and more emphasis is placed on how quickly and effectively we respond to electronic messages, be it a text, email, HeyTell, BBM, or what have you. But this perception is skewed, and unrealistically emphasized.

When a friend doesn’t text back promptly, people get annoyed. The more time that passes, people either become irrationally angry at their friend’s lack of response, or they think that said friend is dead. Yes, it is that dramatic that people either mentally begrudge their texty pal, or kill them. What choices! We place a heinous amount of weight on text messages – reading too far into them and expecting too much. Instead of talking about real issues in person, people have text quarrels, text fights and even text-break-ups. And the more addicted people are to their phone, the worse off they become in the socially-functional department. People even go so far as to call a friend a “mean” or “angry” texter from their use of correct punctuation. Imagine that! We now live in a world where correct grammar and punctuation are considered so serious for electronic messaging, that we believe such properly composed messages are laced with meanness or anger.

I have managed to avoid “phone-finger syndrome” – an unfortunate paralysis where one’s fingertips unnaturally magnetically attract to the keys of one’s phone. A pitiful amount of my friends have tragically fallen victim, prohibiting them from engaging in normal human interaction, and inhibiting their ability to properly function and engage in social situations. Smart phones further exacerbate this syndrome with their aptitude to connect, taunting those susceptible with the web, apps, games, videos, cameras and more. You know you’ve got it bad when you elect to play Bubble Breaker on your phone instead of actively engaging in conversations with the friends around you. And you know it’s bad when you can’t even sit through a full movie without checking your phone, or attempting to break your high score in Angry Birds.

“The fastest-growing group of smartphone addicts was 18- to 24-year-olds, though it’s 25- to 34-year-olds who continue to own the lion’s share,” says an article from eweek.com. The new generation of socialites has bred a serious monster – one that cannot seem to survive for an extended (or short) period of time without communicating via text, Tweet, post, etc. People have become so seduced by these flashy, sleek devices, that they have thrown all caution to the wind, not stopping for long enough to consider their privacy may be in jeopardy.

According to a recent report about identity theft from a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, “people are making it easier for identity thieves to piece together the information needed to steal their credit name…the survey found that 7 percent of smartphone users were victims of identity fraud, compared with the 4.9 percent among the general population,” as cited in this Boston Globe article.

According to a report from TIME, nearly 50 percent of Americans now owning a smart phone, with Androids and iPhones in the lead, the norm for how we communicate is shifting planes. Expectations are morphing along with this shift, so how do we adapt? Do we sell out (literally), and buy an expensive phone with an expensive data plan and load it up with games and apps we spend yet more money on, signing a contract to agreeably accept a seemingly incurable addiction? It isn’t just a choice, but it’s a lifestyle to commit to. It isn’t to be taken lightly. For me, I plan to stick with my dumb phone, living in ignorant bliss for as long as I can, maintaining a healthy mind set about electronic communication with the hopes that there are others out there like me. I’m not perfect, but I can try to be as healthily detached as possible. I like leaving my phone places. I like when it “dies” when I’m out and I am immediately relieved of an endless obligations. I take those moments and I cherish them, and I advise more people to do the same. Unplug to unwind. Remember how to talk with your mouth. Slow down in this modern world where it is so easy to get swept up in the busy craze. ‘Cuz once you go smart, you can never go back. Stay grounded, stay dumb. It’s worth it.


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