My Smart Phone is Making Me Dumb (Among Other Things)

My initial post turned out to be a bit lengthy, so I decided to break it down into two parts. The following explanation of my resistance to advancing cell phone technology is part two. Part one, my progression to a smart phone, can be read here.

As I discussed in my last post, cell phone technology has come a long way. Smart phones not only allow access to a variety of communication methods, but supply many handy tools for life. Seriously, what isn’t there an app for anymore?

Many of us forgo installing a house phone because our cell phones easily fulfill the need. This means one less bill to pay, plus the added benefit of not having to field phone calls from strangers when you move into a new place. (E.g., “No, he/she doesn’t live here anymore.”) Telemarketers still find you, of course, but when you see the 800 number pop up, it’s easy to hit ignore. Then again, I suppose it is possible I’ve ignored the call that I’ve won millions at least eight times so far this year…

Without a phone installed upstairs and downstairs or in the central location of your home, it can become necessary to keep your cell phone nearby. If you’re like me, you assume there is no way someone is going to call in the few minutes you are downstairs, then you have to run upstairs when it inevitably rings. Hey, I have no need for a gym membership this way.

Still, with the increased conveniences, have cell phones also become more intrusive?

In part one, I suggested that without cell phones, people would really talk to each other again. Texting illustrates my point. I hesitated to start texting partly because of this result: the inability to give undivided attention to someone.

I did not want to become one of those people having lunch with a friend while texting another friend (or multiple friends) the entire time. Also, have you ever been to a family gathering where everyone sits in the same room — and pulls out their phones? Sure, you could also ignore the people you are with for a call, but I expect this is viewed as more obviously rude. Generally, people are more likely to say they’ll call someone back later, but texting allows for the coveted ability to multitask. I think there’s a time and a place, however, and when a live, in-person human being requires your attention, it’s not the time or the place.

Smart phones only make this worse with more distractions — texts, emails, Internet, games, the ability to lock and unlock your car, etc. In a way, cell phones have become an attention-hogging third wheel in our otherwise human interactions.

The downside of cell phone use isn’t limited to forgetfulness of basic social graces. As the English major in me points out, it’s also killing grammar. For my own well-being, I try to avoid texting techniques such as the absence of capital letters and punctuation and the infamous “u” and “ur.” (Yes, I proofread my texts before I hit send, but shouldn’t everyone?) Unfortunately, I think I’m getting dumber simply reading the latest slang.

As a child, I built up my vocabulary and honed my spelling skills by being an avid reader. Seeing words used in print reinforced how to properly use them in writing. Now, seeing words frequently misspelled and misused, my brain uses the same recall as before, only it’s detrimental. I’m starting to forget things that used to be automatic, like the proper contexts for there/their/they’re and your/you’re. I fear if I start dropping the rules for texts, it’s a slippery slope before everything else I write suffers.

Furthermore, I’m bothered by the dependence on cell phones. One night, I went to my women’s Bible study and accidentally left my phone in my apartment. When I realized this, I fretted over how someone couldn’t reach me and what to do if I had car trouble on the way home. I couldn’t get my mind off not having my phone with me the entire hour and a half. (Or two hours — we ladies like to talk.) Later, I was appalled by how dependent I was on a phone — and it wasn’t even a smart phone then. 

I know it’s a children’s film, but dependence on technology makes me think of the portrayal of the future in Wall-E. We see the people on the ship give up human interaction in favor of machines that meet their every need. (Unless you’re my mom and ask, if everyone sat around in their chairs all day, where did all the babies come from? My mother — making me blush at animated films since she said Jock and Trusty proposing marriage meant scandal during Lady’s night out with Tramp. I cling to any childhood innocence I may have left.)

Yes, I have a smart phone. I love it, but I see the need for caution if there is a chance of losing something important — like the ability to carry on calmly without it or write a grammatical sentence. I don’t want to look back and wonder if all that time on my phone meant I continually missed out on what (and who) was in front of me.

I think I’ll leave it upstairs more often.

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2 thoughts on “My Smart Phone is Making Me Dumb (Among Other Things)

  1. I agree, but is it okay for me to read this on my smart phone?
    And, my wife had the same question as your mother. That’s just the way she rolls.

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