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Talking, Texting, Tweeting

How the smartphone is taking over.


Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 11:01

Last November, Genesis Guzman lost her iPhone. It was a nightmare she never wants to live again.

     “I panic when I don’t have my phone,” Guzman said. “When I lost my phone for a week, I went nuts. I didn’t know what to do.”

    Although it was only a week she went without a phone, Guzman said it felt like a month. This experience made her realize how much she depended on her phone and how controlled she was by it.

    Guzman, 21, a senior education major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, uses the calendar app to organize her day-by-day agenda.

    “When I lost my phone, I didn’t know what was going on the next day, what meetings I needed to be at, if I had any appointments or if something important was due at all,” Guzman said. “It was horrible; I had no clue of anything.”

    Through this experience, Guzman learned that she can’t always depend solely on her phone. She started using a physical agenda – one that she can write on and carry with her.

    “This way, I have a backup. I won’t go crazy if I ever lose my phone again,” Guzman said. “Technology will always have a glitch, so you need to come up with a way to backup your information.”

    An estimated 44 percent of the U.S. internet population, ages 8 through 64, own a smartphone, according to the study “A Portrait of Today’s Smartphone User” from the Online Publishers Association.

    This study also reveals more than two-thirds of smartphone owners cannot live without their smartphones.

    “As I started progressing and thinking about it,” Guzman said, “I realized that I was letting a smartphone control my life.”

    This is true when we aren’t disciplined enough to put the phone down and control what we want to do with our time, rather than letting a device control our time for us. 

    Just like Guzman, many others struggle with medium dependency.

    “It’s not just cellphones that take control of our lives,” Dr. Brigette Ryalss said, chair and associate professor of psychology at UNO. “Anything with a screen, such as computers, TV, Nintendo, cellphones and tablets, are all devices that can be addicting.”

    Also in the study “A Portrait of Today’s Smartphone User” 67 percent of people can’t live without a PC/laptop, 62 percent can’t live without TV, 20 percent can’t live without a video game console and 13 percent can’t live without a tablet.

    These numbers should raise a concern. To what extent are we being benefited by using smartphones, and where should we mark a line so it doesn’t take control of our lives?

    Technology has sky-rocketed to the point that anything is feasible through our smartphones. We carry a calculator, a calendar, a phone book, newspapers, pictures, videos, documents, games, music, a GPS and even a voice that does whatever we tell it to do for us. That is why it is almost impossible for today’s society to detach from smartphones. Instead of just being a device, smartphones have become a significant, emotional part of us.

    “The market share for smartphones is growing fast because you can’t get a non-smartphone anymore,” Dr. Adam Tyma said, assistant professor of communications at UNO. “If you upgrade, you will upgrade to a smartphone – that’s just the way it is.”

    This means that soon every cellphone user will be using a smartphone. More people will get honed in to the smartphone addiction phenomenon. How will this affect us?

    The smartphone is quickly becoming an extension of the human brain, according to “Your Smartphone May Be Making You... Not Smart,” in “Psychology Today.”

    This article also explains that we have given our working memory one less important exercise as we become accustomed to storing information on the phone. We used to rely on our neurons to remember phone numbers, important facts, such as game scores, and other bits of information. Today, our smartphones do it all for us. Any answers we need are only a tap away or as easy as inserting a few key words of the question into our “smart” search engine and there it is.

The problem is not the use of the smartphone itself; the problem comes when the smartphone takes over a function that your brain is perfectly capable of performing. It’s like taking the elevator instead of the stairs; the ride may be quicker, but your muscles won’t get a workout, according to the “Psychology Today” article.

 Guzman suggests we should be careful on how we use our phone and what activities or skills are being replaced by it.  

“If I know how to get somewhere, or use an actual paper map, why replace that skill or ability with my phone? What’s going to happen the day I get lost, and I don’t have my phone with me?” Guzman said. “What would be worst is if I get lost without a phone and don’t even know how to use a map, right?”

The dominant use of smartphones is to access information. Other uses are for access to the Internet, check emails, listen to music, use a social network, play games, and make purchases.

“Phones have become more ubiquitous,” Tyma said. “I bank on mine, I shop, I take pictures, I shoot video, I communicate. They are becoming inseparable from us.”

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