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Smartphone dependency is a thing, but we’re not hopeless

As a society, phone dependency is increasingly an issue, but is that totally bad news?

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The mindless scrolling is real

I don’t need an app to tell me I’m highly dependent on my smartphone. I know it when I sense the feeling of my hand gravitating towards the device, programmed to drift through social media apps or refresh my inbox. Hours of mindless scrolling, out of years of habit.

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The Checky app offered an opportunity to collect data to confirm what I already dreaded: The daily number of times I check my phone. I was hopeful. Similar to apps that monitor quality of sleep, the underlying intention is that you absorb the realization that a lifestyle change is in order and you put forth effort to make it.

Questioning your dependency

It didn’t work. As in, the app itself wouldn’t track my activity.

Although I’ve tried to run it on my phone over several days for my mini experiment, it said I only looked at my phone an average of 11 times. I know that number’s – at minimum – 10 times too small.

However, making that realization on my own was enough to inspire a re-evaluation of my phone habits.
This isn’t a radical view of our relationship to our phones, and I know I’m not the only one that’s questioned mobile dependency. It’s not news, but it’s worthwhile to engage in a deep reflection about time spent on our phones and the true value of information being added.

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Constant stream of easily digestible content

The majority of smartphone owners use their phones to follow breaking news and to share information about happenings in their community. On the surface, that seems like a positive attribute. It is, to an extent. I’m amazed by the immense accessibility of information at our fingertips and the power of revolution that social media holds.

However, it’s an oversaturated, messy place. Trying to keep up with the hoards of easily digestible content is not making us more informed.

Rather, the rat race of the information age is often distracting, stressful, and leads to a lot of misinformation.

Internet access causes people to think they’re smarter and more well-informed than they really are, according to a recent Yale study.

To nail the point home, the World Economic Forum lists “massive digital misinformation” as a main threat to society. When progress is dependent on an informed populace, of course misinformation is as dangerous as terrorism and cyberattacks. It’s the epicenter of all other risks.

Breaking the illusion

As someone who’s worked in the journalism and social media industries, I understand the nagging fear of missing out (FOMO) that accompanies the digital world. We may dream of tossing our phones aside and retreating to an unplugged paradise, and then that fantasy dwindles with each notification, email and article shared.

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But being “plugged in” is an illusion: you’re not going to miss out on important news and no one, at least not the people that matter, is going to miss your 24/7 online presence that much.

The good news: It’s an illusion we can break. We hold the individual power to stand up to smartphone addiction. And we should, for the health of our minds and the way in which we process information.

The healing process

I’m not advocating any absolutes. You don’t have to suspend your social accounts. We can remain accessible to our networks but not be chained to them. We can practice the art of self-control, making it easier by deleting apps off of our phones (hello, desktops) and filtering our social media feeds as a preventative measure to not be exposed to so much recycled content.

A friend of mine, a social media manager for an online nonprofit media organization, decided to reduce the Facebook pages he followed from 85 to 6 because he was “tired of seeing the same thing repackaged 25 different ways.”

Let’s allow our minds to rewire and heal, so that we can begin to seek out information in a smart and meaningful way.

#PhoneDependency

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Written By

Staff Writer Larisa Manescu cringes at the question "Where are you from?" because it's a long story, but it's one she loves to share if you ask her. Her interests include storytelling, social justice and choreographed group dance classes.

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