I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately, on the order of 2-3 hours per day. What I’ve noticed is people are dangerously addicted to their phones. On almost every block there is at least one person both walking and either texting, reading, or talking to someone else on the phone. Combine this with the number of people listening to music while engaging in these behaviors and what you see is a crisis of technological slavery. It’s a quiet epidemic because although this type of behavior is undoubtedly becoming more common, nobody seems to care. Everyone’s just complicitly getting sucked into this smartphone based coma without the slightest resistance.
Technology is supposed to assist us, to make our lives easier. Think of washing machines that spare us all the labor required to clean clothes. But in the case of computers and smartphones, technology is enslaving us, luring us towards an absolute dependence on the constant stimulation of plasma screens. Our reptilian minds are simply no match for the overpowering allure that constant access to information and communication can provide. But unlike the washing machine, these technologies are actively making our lives worse. It’s not anything inherently wrong with smartphones. We just don’t have the discipline required to use these amazing devices to our benefit. Rather, smartphones are hijacking people’s minds from their immediate surroundings and injecting them into an all-consuming pseudo-reality.
People addicted to their smartphones are boring. They don’t have interests beyond feeling entertained at all times. They’re impatient, unable to concentrate on most things for more than a few seconds. They’re insensitive, willing to ignore messages from friends without the slightest sense of remorse. They are self-absorbed, as everything they do is ultimately about them. They are petty, vain, immature and unpleasant in every sense of the word.
Perhaps that is an unreasonably cruel assessment, and certainly not every smartphone addict has succumbed to such toxic personality traits. Nevertheless, this is the trend I am generally observing. I mean let’s face it: a smartphone is the most narcissism enabling technology ever invented by mankind. Can you honestly think of anyone whose personality traits have become the opposite of what I described based on their adoption of smartphones? They would have to have become interesting, patient, sensitive, selfless and mature through the use of smartphones, and that sounds patently ridiculous.
What I want to know is why everyone is not only giving in to this smartphone craze, but doing so with the utmost enthusiasm. Are we so eager to please our every impulse that we’re willing to sacrifice our personality and core values for this opportunity? Do we not see how everyone is slowly getting converted into lethargic zombies? That everyone is getting completely absorbed into their own tiny bubble of smartphone reality that destroys any ability to appreciate or even notice life?
I recently saw a woman who was tanning in the sun. She placed a towel over her head so that she could read from her phone without the sun’s glare. Her eyes never peeled away from her phone every time I looked her way. All I could think was, “you are missing the point!” If you can’t enjoy the feeling of basking in the sun without being absorbed by some form of distraction, how can you appreciate any kind of fundamental human experience? You can’t properly enjoy a sunset, or watch the waves at the beach, or stare at the stars at night if you can’t spend a minute away from the allure of social media without feeling twitchy.
I feel nervous for my love life in the future because I am specifically screening for attractive women that don’t treat their phones like it’s an extension of their body. It feels like a lost cause. You can either have one or the other, but both is so incredibly rare to find that it’s depressing. The cultural shift towards smartphone addiction is so powerful that I am basically forced to move to a less technologically advanced country in order to find the lifestyle I am looking for. And with the forces of globalization at work, who knows how long it will be until there is basically no refuge from smartphone culture at all.