Smartphones are the new cigarettes

If you’ve ever been to any social gathering with friends recently, you would have probably noticed that those around you, those sitting in the same table as you, are on their phones. They might be physically present but mentally, they’re elsewhere. Heck, that person might even be you. How did it come to this?

Isn’t it contradictory? You and your friends are out on a social outing and instead of paying full attention and talking to each other, some of you chose to play with your smartphones instead. Perhaps you’re texting someone, checking your social media feeds, reading the news, or whatever.

But it doesn’t make sense, it’s a social occasion, everyone’s physically gathered together but you chose to play with your phone? What could be so important that you couldn’t do it later, after the gathering?

The more I think about it, the more smartphones resemble cigarettes. Just like cigarettes, smartphones are addictive. Most people can’t even go an hour without checking their phones these days, they can’t even sit on the toilet without their phones. Take away someone’s phone and watch their withdrawal symptom kick in. Heck, most people would even start panicking when their battery level drops too low.

Just like cigarettes, smartphones are bad for your health. Your mind is constantly engaged, playing this instant gratification roulette and getting a quick dopamine fix. How do you even focus on anything? You lose your attention span, you can’t sit still for five minutes without the need to check your phone, your whole life becomes your phone. It also degrades your eyesight and contributes to nearsightedness, it even disrupts sleep because you keep checking your phone late at night.

And just like cigarettes, there’s also the effect of ‘secondhand smartphoning’. When you’re ‘smartphoning’, what do you think your friends or those around you are thinking? “Hello, I’m talking to you here!” “Okay, ignored yet again…is what you’re doing really that important that you can’t go five minutes without checking your phone?”

Of course, they don’t say that. No one does, no one wants to be that one annoying friend who says those kinds of things. So they simply tolerate and wallow in your neglect. What a nice friend you are. No one can’t engage in any serious conversation if the other party keeps checking their phone every five minutes. It’s like they’re indirectly saying “not interested, let’s reload my feeds and see what new updates I’ve missed in the last five minutes.”

Constant ‘smartphoning’ can cause you to lose touch with what it’s like to actually talk to someone. To actually have a face-to-face conversation, to understand body language and interpret the various tone of voice, to practice empathy and understand emotional response.

Put it this way, if you told a joke over text and the other person found it offensive, how would you know? How would you know not to double down on your joke and make the situation worse? You don’t.

Without seeing a reaction, you wouldn’t know that you just said something inappropriate. And when the other person replies that the joke was in bad taste, or pointed out that it was offensive, are you just gonna brush it aside and laugh it off?

If more and more of our communications were through text, just imagine how socially inadept most people will become. Conversations would turn awkward, there would be misunderstandings left and right, and the cycle would just reinforce itself.

Rant aside, smartphones are the new cigarettes. We check them frequently, whenever we’re bored, and they have a negative impact on our lives. Not so much on our physical health but more so on our mental health. Better learn how to control your smartphones before it starts controlling you. You might think a quick check isn’t gonna hurt but it quickly becomes a slippery slope from there on. I know because I used to be that person.

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