Nowadays it’s become common practice to just whip out our smartphones for every little thing. Why wouldn’t we? They are practically mini-computers. But, are we really addicted to our phones? Are there no positives to having access to the world in our pockets (or handbags)?
Social Media: Angel or Devil?
To begin, it might be best to discuss the elephant in the room, or smartphone, in this case. It is certainly not new to any of us that social media has become quite the controversy since it was created. There have been countless articles berating the “addicted youth” and mourning the loss of imagination or freedom. In fact, quite recently, Netflix released The Social Dilemma. This documentary explores the dangers of the smartphone, mostly through social media apps and Google. Though, the documentary could definitely be considered slightly fear-mongering in nature as they only focus on the negatives.
Which brings us to the question: Is social media only a force for evil? It is true that the engineers and graphics designers at companies like Facebook and Instagram specifically designed the apps with the intention that we, the users, would keep clicking and scrolling. There are constant suggestions to keep us scrolling for hours down into the rabbit hole. The “like” button is designed to give us a rush of dopamine. But this only lasts a little while and, so, we keep going back for more. Of course that’s how it was designed; these big companies still need to make money. Thus, they keep their audience hooked on their product.
However, social media, like anything else in life, also has its good side. Facebook has given us the chance to reconnect with people that we’ve lost contact with. Instagram and TikTok have become great platforms for sharing creativity. Now artists and other freelancers have an effective way to share their content with more viewers. Even something as simple as meme sharing has given everyone some much-needed levity in troubled times (looking at you 2020).
The Power at our Fingertips
It’s becoming more and more obvious that we basically have what amounts to a mini-computer in our hands, and we use it to scroll through memes. Maybe that’s why so many from the “boomer” generation think we millennials and Gen-Z’s are addicted. We’re always looking at the screen, aren’t we? And it’s always for something useless, right?
Well, while phone games are fun and taking selfies has become a rite of passage for social media use, not everything on our phones is pointless fun. Nowadays, literally everything that used to be on our computers and in books is all contained in our cellphones.
Students don’t need to visit a library for hours on end to look for one specific journal. They can just hop on Google and find a curated list of academic sources. Not to mention, we can now win friendly debates with our friends and family using a simple Google search. Google Maps is there to navigate us to every destination we could possibly imagine. Exploring your vacation destination or new hometown is as simple as the click of a button. Not to mention amazing apps like Airbnb, which allow you to book accommodation practically anywhere in the world.
Also, in this modern, technological age, we use our phones for actual work. By linking and syncing our Gmail account, we have access to all our emails. We can now access our emails from anywhere we need, without the added effort of lugging our laptops around. This has made communication with colleagues and clients much easier and less stressful. It also allows us to actually get daily activities, like grocery shopping and morning runs, out of the way without worrying that we’ve missed important emails from our boss. This has become especially important for freelancers who need to be able to advertise their services online and easily network with multitudes of people.
If you are one of those people that worry about how much time you spend on your phone or you simply have productivity issues, there are actual apps for that. So, why not try out Notion for organizing your tasks, or Habitify to build up good daily habits for yourself.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
Now, on to the flip side of the coin. For every advantage or good side, there will, inevitably, be a bad side. We really can get addicted to our phones, just like some people may be addicted to gambling or drugs.
So, what makes our phones so addictive? What are these bad sides? Let’s use Google as our first example. Just as it can be used to expand our knowledge, it can be used to spread false information. Humans are still writing all those articles out there and humans can’t help but be a little biased. You could very easily be led to believe extremist views, even dangerous ones, because people can use untrustworthy sources to convince us of false truths. So, it does fall on us, as individuals, to make sure that we are truly well-informed before acting like experts on countless topics. We are the ones that need to keep ourselves educated.
Then, of course, there’s the whole addiction argument. Why is it that we always reach for our phones when we’re bored? Why does every notification leave us with the insatiable urge to check every account? Well, as aforementioned, it’s that pleasing rush of dopamine through our brains. We feel happy in those few moments of someone liking our post or laughing at the trending YouTube video. But these moments are fleeting. That’s why we keep going back. We want to capture that rush, that feeling of joy. However, that feeling can start becoming hollow because, eventually, we start pushing for fake interactions. We’re not truly happy unless our selfie gets over 50 likes, otherwise, we feel invalidated.
That’s when negative emotions can start stirring in our minds. One person could insult you and suddenly you feel worse than you ever have. People may argue with a point you made in the comments section. Eventually, this spirals into nothing but negativity, and this can severely impact your mental health.
On top of everything, you may become disconnected from reality. Yes, our phones and social media are a great way to reconnect with people, but there’s a fine line. If you spend all your waking moments checking your emails, you’re no longer just a diligent worker, you’re a workaholic. If you can only be entertained by mindless point-and-click phone games, you will no longer feel joy at everyday activities and could even dim your imagination. You may end up feeling like you’re actually losing time in a day because you’ve been scrolling through TikToks endlessly.
The Good News
However, there is a bright side. The power is in your hands, always, and quite literally. We can’t keep blaming all the big corporations. They just want to make money, like most of us. So, it’s our choice what we do with our time, and that is fantastic. If you feel like you may be a bit addicted, delete the apps or set a lock on them for certain times. Put your phone away before bed and do something else that you enjoy. Facebook, Instagram, all these platforms, don’t control you like a puppet. You still have the freedom to disconnect whenever you want. And, hey, if you want to spend an hour watching true crime videos on YouTube, go for it.
So, are we really addicted to our phones? Yes and no. It’s a complicated world out there and every one of us is different. Use your phones at your discretion and enjoy yourself. As long as you’re living your best life, no one can control you.