Everywhere you go these days, you cannot escape the sight of someone talking, texting, or playing on their cell phones and we are constantly flooded with media messages regarding the necessity of buying or upgrading to the new and “improved” mobile device or downloading the “just-can’t-live-without-it” app.
Cell phones are no longer just a communication device. The never-ending options for apps allow us to do anything we could ever dream of, like flip a computer-generated coin, translate the cry of an infant, and even date a virtual girl (yes, that’s right, there exists a “pocket girlfriend” app!). Indeed, cell phones have become a regular staple in the lives of most of us and we are able to stay plugged in to anything at anytime and from virtually anywhere. However convenient this all is, we need to ask ourselves the following question: At what point is this actually interfering in our lives and what are we sacrificing in order to be connected 24/7?
According to an article in Tech News Daily, our relationships with our phones might be affecting us more than we realize and therefore, we might be sacrificing more than we know. Tech News Daily reported on a Stanford University study which found that out of 200 students surveyed “75 percent admitted to falling asleep with the iPhone in bed with them” (Hope, 2010). Really?!? So, not only are our phones consuming our conscious, waking moments, but they are also infiltrating our subconscious, sleeping hours! Takao, Takahashi, and Kitamura (2009) explained it best when they stated that mobile phone use can cause “a serious problem for an individual’s social life and work life” (p. 501).
Have you ever caught yourself asking things like, “Why hasn’t he texted me back?” or “When is she going to call me?” or “What does he mean by that text message?” or “What does she think of me after I posted that comment?” These kinds of questions could lead to nervousness, insecurity, self-doubt, and sadness. We may end up obsessively checking our phones for responses or re-reading our sent messages. If taken to the extreme, we might even end up triggering underlying psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, alexithymia (a deficiency in understanding or processing emotions), lack of control, attention difficulties, and emotional dependence (Takao, Takahashi, & Kitamura, 2009; Jenaro, Flores, Gomez-Vela, Gonzalez-Gil, & Caballo, 2007).
The social consequences of cell phone overuse are also significant. They might include loneliness or social dysfunction because we would rather communicate electronically and hole ourselves up at home playing Angry Birds than spend face-to-face time with others. We may find that we are being hypervigilant about how we virtually portray ourselves or we may experience a constant need for approval and become disappointed or even angry if all three-thousand of our Facebook friends don’t “like” our most recent post. (Takao, Takahashi, & Kitamura, 2009; Jenaro, Flores, Gomez-Vela, Gonzalez-Gil, & Caballo, 2007). Some people have even lost relationships (hence, the coined term, “iPhone widow”) or a job because we are more concerned about our phone activity than our significant other or our livelihood!
So, what does this excessive cell phone use mean for us as intelligible, thinking creatures? Well, in short, having an app for everything enables us to not have to know or learn or do anything for ourselves. Kids no longer need to learn the periodic table of elements or memorize the names of our past presidents – they can just download the appropriate app for that. Adults no longer need to plan what presents to get for their friends’ or family members’ birthdays – there’s an app for that too. Furthermore, adults no longer need to read a newspaper article, even when it is displayed on their phone – there’s an app that will read it for them. And come on, an app that translates the cry of an infant?!? So, not only will we no longer need to be intelligent, but we won’t even have to have basic human instincts anymore either! Sounds great … or does it?!?
And what does this excessive cell phone use mean for us as a culture? It seems like we are so concerned with downloading apps or updating our status on Facebook that we are willing to be completely oblivious to everyone around us! While sending texts or posting messages may, in fact, be easy, in the long run we may be lessening our ability to organically interact with one another face-to-face. What are we going to do if we have to talk to another individual in person?!?
Ultimately, it seems like man does have a new friend. Friends were once considered individuals with whom we had things in common, with whom we wanted to spend time, to whom we enjoyed physically talking, and around whom we enjoyed being. Unfortunately, now man’s best friend is a little, rectangular box that merely does anything we want. And this basically means that we no longer have to worry about learning new information or skills, doing anything for ourselves, or interacting with other people. Ah, the cell phone … made by machines, for machines.
Dr. Erika Widera
The Control Center
Addiction and Mental Health Specialist, Relationship Therapist
Hope, D. (2010). iPhone Addictive, Survey Reveals. Tech News Daily. Retrieved
August 24, 2011 from http://www.technewsdaily.com/iphone-addictive-survey-
Jenaro, C., Flores, N., Gomez-Vela, M., Gonzalez-Gil, F., & Caballo, C. (2007).
Problematic internet and cell-phone use: Psychological, behavioral, and health
correlates. Addiction Research and Theory, 15(3), 309-320.
Takao, M., Takahashi, S., & Kitamura, M. (2009). Addictive personality and
problematic mobile phone use. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 501-507.