‘ARE WE seeing a new 2019 Tower of Babel?’.
(photo credit: TNS)
As a clinical psychologist who thinks about the overwhelming impact of the smartphone on our society, I’m very distressed. With more people possessing cellphones, having the ability to do more and access so much at any given time, technology has advanced exponentially to the point where we now need to examine the impact of the phone and set guidelines as a society for responsible usage.In just a few years, the smartphone has intruded into almost every aspect of our lives, for both good and bad, changing the very nature of our human relationships. Who isn’t addicted to their phone, leaving it on all day and often at night, checking it multiple times an hour just to see if someone wrote something or if there is something new? How often are friends or family members “last seen” on their phone late into the night, leaving us to wonder whether the phone kept them up or whether they were just up and had to check their phone? Who doesn’t go on to their phone to check one thing and find themselves distractedly surfing from one place to another, bored, looking for more and more, then suddenly realizing that they have lost track of time, neglected their partner, job or other responsibilities, have spent hours being nonproductive – and if doing all of this while driving, have posed serious safety issues?
Face-to-face and phone communication has diminished markedly. Why bother with a live conversation when texting or tweeting, email or WhatsApp, is easier, faster, sometimes more immediate and often more comfortable? While blurring boundaries, nuance and sarcasm may be harder to “hear,” allowing for more frequent miscommunication, it seems a small price to pay for many. When one is actually engaged in a face-to-face conversation, if carrying a phone, its beep, buzz, vibration or jingle is distracting even if one opts to not look at the message. So whether on the phone or simply by carrying it, the cellphone can preclude engaging in conversation, decrease intimacy and ensure that the only thing being “turned on” is the phone itself.