Remember the time when you stood in an elevator and the person walking in from another floor made eye contact with you? Said a low but precious “hi” or just acknowledged your presence somehow? It was cool, wasn’t it…
A few years ago, I was leaving work later one evening to go to ballet class. As I was waiting, I fetched my earphones to have my music ready for my commute. I actually try not to put my earphones on in the elevator out of respect for those around me but seeing that it was 7 pm, I figured there wouldn’t be anyone there. The elevator dings at its arrival, I step in and saw a gentleman standing there. Noticing my earphones the man commented on how the younger generation is always “connected”. What he did not know is that my music was not playing yet. The ONE time I decided to play my music in the elevator, I get busted AND judged for it, giving a bad name to my generation on top of it. It was for music, not candy crush, but I understand what it looks like from the outside. I of course immediately turned around, took my earpieces out and said smiling “not all of us ” to his surprise. Ever since then though, this further reinforced my habit of keeping my earphones out of sight so long as there are people around me in the elevator and on my way in and out of the work environment. Had this been the eighties, I would have had earphones and a chunky yellow Sony Walkman and the man would have made the same comment. He had a point though, must we always be connected?
Standing in the elevator my way down this week, I decided to pay attention to individuals walking in at each stop, as I usually do, but this time I noted who was looking up and who was looking down at their phone *crowd gasps in shock* Why would I conduct such an elaborate and scientific experiment you ask? I was curious to see how many of us make a conscious effort to have contact with others. And it IS a CONSCIOUS effort to battle the habit of automatically reaching for our phone to fill, what, one minute of an elevator ride with mindless phone browsing? We can hardly get a glance from anyone anymore. Someone actually saying hello seems to be a miraculous surviving breed of humans. Indeed, the social skills that were once presented during those few instants shared with strangers are slowly being pulverized by our attachment to our mobile phones.
Increasing efficiency at a cost...
This happens all the time of course. Those little in-between moments when we used to let our brain chill and relax while waiting to start the next task are now almost all occupied by, you know it, cell phone checking. When we stop to think of it, our phones are now computers that have the ability to take photos, share information and...oh yeah, make phone calls. With our lifestyle being that of speed, we try and stay productive each second of the day. Yet, the fact that smartphones offer the possibility to do more with them, especially checking social network sites, is what constitutes the instigation to addiction. Why? Because if those social networks (i.e. likes, comments) produce any kinds of positive feedback while we use them (which they do), that is what reinforces its use (James Robert, 2014).
According to Aric Suber-Jenkins in the What your smartphone addiction is doing to your brain article "Any entity that can produce a pleasurable sensation has the potential of becoming addictive”, quoting a study ran by James Robert, a marketing professor at Baylor University. Furthermore, Suber-Jenkins goes on to explains that according to the study, the features that are most commonly used on our cell phones - email, texting and social media – seem to activate the same neurological circuits that other more “traditional” addictions do. This seems alarming and yet, not surprising at all.
Alone time with our thoughts...
We find ourselves unconsciously searching for our cell phone to check emails pretty much anywhere and at any time. While it may be quite practical at times, this does reinforce a reflex to continuously verify the status of things on our smartphones or tablets to stay on top of things. This, in turn, goes on to essentially kill any innocently free moment we have to ourselves. Even a simple task like walking has become dangerously invaded by our mobile phones. All of these constant human-to-electronic device interactions leave us less time for human-to-human interactions. Our mobile phones activities are therefore unsurprisingly changing our cognitive reflexes and the manner in which we build and develop our relationships, and experts say this could even leave us with higher levels of social anxiety (Caglar Yildrim from Sandee LaMotte, 2017).
As if this wasn’t enough, technological advancements are actually fostering individuals to do more with their phone by asking us to cash cheques by phone, pay your milk and bread by phone, get your receipt by email, scan your plane ticket with your phone, scan your rebate coupon, etc. Once again, these are all very practical and paperless which is good for the environment (yaaay!) but while we are attempting to limit our phone usage, everything around us is encouraging us to use it. Get out of the way “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) NoMophoBia is here! You read correctly, and this, of course, stands for “No Mobile Phone phoBIA”. Understandably a very common concept among us in 2018, mentions Sandee LaMotte (2017) in his article entitled “Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain”. In this piece the author reviews a variety of studies, though some using rather small study groups, revealing that the addictiveness of the smartphones could be hindering our ability to be attentive. In my opinion, this is a self-feeding cycle…
We are reinforced to use our cell phones by positive rewards like messages, likes, and comments which decrease our human interactivity in real time which consequently, in time, decreases our social abilities which then feeds the need to use our cell phones to fill the “awkward” moments we spend with strangers we don’t know how to interact with.
Tolerating, scratch that, enjoying the in-between moments of nothing
Luckily for previous generations, like mine, who grew up without these devices already possess a set of social skills (that did not include “filters”) and the awareness to catch ourselves in our habits and make an effort to control the use. The concern is for the later generations that may already be using these devices at a critical age where cognitive and social development occur. So, the psychology message behind this is to increase awareness of our phone usage from savage to normal and to not be afraid to take a break and slow down the pace. My way of doing so is to take back those peaceful moments when we are “in-between”: waiting for the bus or the metro, sitting in a lobby waiting for an appointment, waiting in line at the grocery store, walking home (ok I do have music then) and other moments like those to let my mind drift in a daydream and just bee… ;)
How about you? Do you find you are addicted to your smartphone or is it all good?
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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