We live in a world today that is obsessed with technology, especially when it comes to the use of smartphone mobile devices. In society today, having the latest web enabled mobile device is virtually considered a necessity of life. I often wonder how we functioned before the advent of smartphones. On any given day, regardless of where you are, you are bound to find someone engrossed in their activity on a smartphone. All you have to do is sit waiting in a doctor’s office, an airport gate area, or simply be surrounded by many people in public, and you will invariably see several people completely captivated by their mobile device. It’s as if we have all been placed under a spell by the little rectangular Apple or Android monster in our hand. In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a study that gathered some very interesting data regarding the use of modern mobile phone devices. Take a look at some of the most recent statistics involving the use of smartphones:
- 90% of American adults have a cell phone
- 58% of American adults have a smartphone
- 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
- 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.
- 75 percent of Americans bring their phones to the bathroom
- On average, consumers spend 3.3 hours each day using their smartphones
These statistics are just a small example of some of the extensive data that you can find regarding the use of smartphones in today’s world. I have lost count of how many times while I was eating lunch in the cafeteria at the hospital where I work that I have looked over to the table next to me to see five or six people all completely engrossed in their smartphone. At the table there is no conversation, no eye contact…only smartphone surfing. When I see something like this, I’m not sure whether to find it funny and amusing or shockingly sad. Seeing scenes like this awakens me to the fact that I myself am sometimes too enthralled by my Apple iphone.
I check my phone many times a day for new Facebook posts from friends, new emails, new text messages, or to simply surf the web. When I really stop to think about how obsessed we have become as a society with the use of our smartphones, I can’t help but wonder how much life and how much meaningful in-person social interaction we have missed out on. I mean think about it. I often wonder how many times we have sat in crowded public places like a restaurant, an airport, a doctor’s office, or any other public place where we are surrounded by people, and have been completely oblivious to what is going on around us because we were so involved in our smartphone use. Perhaps while we were busy checking Facebook, playing a game, or sending a meaningless text message while waiting in the doctor’s office, there was someone else waiting in the room that was facing a much more grievous diagnosis then we were that needed a word of encouragement. Maybe while waiting for our flight at the airport, because we were completely absorbed in what we were doing on our phones, we failed to notice the person sitting close by that was fighting back tears because they were preparing to fly home to attend the funeral of a loved one. How much difference could our time and words of comfort have made to this person in their moments of grief? What opportunities to enrich the life of a stranger have we missed out on because we were momentarily chained to our handheld monster?
The great rock legend John Lennon was once quoted as saying, “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.” John Lennon lived and died long before the thought of smartphones was ever a glimmer in anyone’s imagination. If John Lennon had lived long enough to witness the smartphone era, I wonder if he would have reworded his famous quote to say, “ Life is what happens while we are busy surfing our smartphones.” As I write this, I am reminding myself that I can’t allow some of the most meaningful moments of life to elude me because I am too captivated by the stainless steel and glass technology in my hand. There is nothing on my phone that is so urgent that it needs to supersede interaction with people in the world around me. Technology is great, and smartphones have without a doubt changed the way people interact with the world around them. I would challenge anyone reading this (as I’m challenging myself) to appreciate your mobile device, but don’t let life pass you by in the process. Don’t miss out on the opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation with someone around you who may need a friend at a time when you would otherwise be captivated by your smartphone. You will always have countless opportunities to check your text messages or your Facebook news feed on your phone, but you may only have one chance to speak words of encouragement to someone who needs it at that very moment. Long after we are gone, we will be remembered by how much difference we have made in the lives of others, not how quickly we replied to a text message. Allowing a smartphone to cause you to miss out on some of life’s most rewarding moments is anything but smart. Remember, it’s not smart…it’s just a phone.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,