I recently had a rather woeful realization about the heavy dependencies of our generation on new and upcoming technology. This realization struck me when I came across a friend who had just misplaced her iPhone and it seemed as though I was standing in front a person drifting along without a purpose. She had become so reliant on a mobile device that she no longer knew how to communicate, how to navigate and—worst of all for her—how to shop. She stood staring at her ten dollar basic phone not knowing what to do as she could not for the life of her remember anybody’s number to make a simple phone call. Isn’t that what the purpose of a phone was after all?
As you continue to read this, take a look around and try to count all the iPhones, Blackberrys, HTCs and other smartphones that are being used by the average person. I would not be surprised if you run out of fingers to count on. According to a statistic by the Nielsen company, two-thirds of American mobile phone users aged 15-24 own a smartphone—a high end mobile device that combines the functions of a personal assistant and a mobile phone. They provide tremendous functionality as well as being portable, light and efficient. Cellphones themselves are a relatively new invention and have indeed come a long way from the heavy-duty, uni-functional devices to the ultra-portable multi-functional devices we see today.
Until a few years ago, a phone was still just a phone. Phones could call, text, take pictures and had simple games. Slowly the marketplace started to flood with smartphones and people of all ages started buying them. At first you would see the occasional iPhone, Android or Blackberry in social gatherings but as time passed more and more people switched from the ‘not so cool’ phones that could text and call to the all-in-one device that happened to also be able to make calls. This trend seems to suggest that soon flip phone and basic devices will be entirely redundant.
To the casual observer, it’s the best thing that could have happened. We have devices that can do almost anything. My phone is my boarding card when I am flying. My phone becomes my bank as I transfer money within seconds without actually having to go to a bank. My phone is my GPS as it guides me to where I want to go. My phone is my entertainment as I play games, watch movies, listen to music and surf the web. My phone is my connection to friends around the world as I tweet, Facebook, text and Skype. My phone is my translator when I go abroad, calculator at a test, weatherman outside the house. The list goes on.
Oh, and of course, my phone allows me to make those calls too!
The advantages of owning smartphones are numerous. They give us immense power right at our fingertips. I myself own an iPhone and cannot even fathom how I would function without one.
But is that really a good thing? Are we maybe too dependent on our phones? Is it really necessary to have a phone that does everything and just a little bit more? While all this seems innocent and a natural progress in technology, is the youth of today becoming too lazy and a little more self-absorbed? While many of us use smartphones productively, it seems that for many young people it’s becoming a replacement for doing the actual work. Isn’t getting lost the best way to find a new place? Can you really not subtract 15 from 50 without picking up that phone calculator? Do you really need to constantly update your location, your moods and your movements on social networking sites?
Some would say that this generation of users, the group aged 15-24, is becoming more and more narcissistic than those from generations before. They require instant gratification, constant connection and a need to broadcast their emotions on a regular basis. It isn’t to say that smartphones are the reason behind this generation being the way it is but they sure act as a catalyst in accelerating that process. The benefits of technology today are hard to debate from the point of view of functionality but there are subtle yet key problems that affect social norms and how we interact with one another and how we end up as adults. Whether it is a good thing that the youth today feel more empowered and are too caught up in their lives to care about people in actual need is hard to say. Whether we are more attention-seeking or not, the Egyptian revolution was undeniably led by the smartphone carrying youth of today!