When Smartphones Make Us Dumb

From the first moment I turned on my smartphone I was enchanted.  Upon activating, the device emitted a strange, though not unpleasing, ethereal noise as an electric blue swirl flashed on the screen.  I resisted buying one until 2013.  As predicted, I love everything I thought I would love about it and feel irritated by everything I thought would be irritating.

Recently I started wondering what the name “smartphone” is really defining.  Does it refer to the actual phone, meaning that it’s “smart” because it possesses technological capabilities to make our lives easier?  Or does “smart” refer to the owner, who is, in some sense, smarter because of the phone?  Having a smartphone means never getting lost, being able to access & retrieve information anytime/anywhere, and receiving notifications/reminders to keep us on track with communication and other aspects of daily life.  These all seem like really positive aspects of having a smartphone, which is why I’m amazed at the ways in which I’m becoming “dumb” for owning one.

I know a number of people, some of whom are smartphone owners, who call me for directions. First of all, most people are pretty adverse to picking up the phone for something as ordinary as a conversation.  And second of all, the smartphone makes you smarter – use the map app!  And if you can’t read a map, google “how to read a map” or “how to activate map voice commands” and the magic inside the phone will give verbal instructions.

And this leads me to the next point, having access to so much information all the time means that I’ve become a bit “dumb” about socializing and communicating with people. My skills are deteriorating because I rely on technology so I don’t need to interact with people to get the information I need.  I’m waiting for a facial-expression app for when we lose our natural abilities to infer meaning from body language.

Smartphones make us dumber by remembering so much for us. When was the last time you remembered a phone number instead of relying on speed-dialing, a contact list, or a voice command?

And lastly using the smartphone makes me “dumb” about my surroundings.  I find that when using the device, even just for taking notes, I’m so focused and absorbed that it consumes all my concentration.  I understand why people have accidents due to “distracted driving.”


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