Editor calls for smarter smartphone daily usage

Are you suffering from some kind of nicotine withdrawal?” My roommate asked her friend who was frantically tapping her fingers at the table of the restaurant, only ten minutes after the dare had been cast.

The challenge at their dinner table was to spend the entire dinner period without texting, calling, tweeting or engaging in any activity that requires the use of a phone. The group barely managed, and needless to say, grabbing their phones was the first thing they did after putting their forks down.

The story reminded me of how my parents – and many other parents – ask me and my siblings to check our smartphones at the door not only before we sit at the dinner table, but also before we sit in any type of conversational setting.

“It’s the most basic sign of respect,” my mother would say.

However, and despite the continuous research about the negative effects of phones, the act of departing from our beloved phones continues to be one of the most challenging tasks anyone could take on, it’s no longer about the lack of respect, but the lack of control.

Research from the PEW Research Center shows that as of December 2012, 87 percent of American adults have a cellphone and 45 percent of American adults have a smartphone. On a daily basis, half of those owners use a social networking site, while 15 percent upload photos online so that others can see them.

The frequency of our usage of media to share things about ourselves is, in my opinion, overwhelming, even to the most technically advanced of us. As a result of this constant – perhaps chronic – need to share and receive, people have lost the ability to do something as basic as having an uninterrupted dinner – mind you, in the real world.

What’s even more frustrating is that we do not realize how addicted we are to – and I dare say enslaved by – the devices we helped build and promote. I hear phrases like “I am sure I can live without my phone if I wanted to,” followed by “I do everything on my phone,” and realize that those who say them somehow think they have the ability to hit a button and switch it off.

The ugly truth is, it’s never as easy as they and I would like to think it is.

And while I acknowledge the difficulty of the task I am about to propose, I still think we should at least give it a try, if not to change behavior, then to expand awareness.

The world we live in forces us to either keep up, or get left behind. Let’s take a step back – look at what is in our hands and where it’s taking us – perhaps we’ll fall a couple of steps behind, but we’ll most likely finally know the way to catch up – in our own unique way. Perhaps we will outsmart our smartphones on this one.



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