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Published 18 May 2015

Becci Cook

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Smartphones and the Death of Conversation

Are you somebody who is always on your phone? Would you rather be communicating with people online than enjoying the company of those around you? In this highly tech savvy and socially engaging culture we live in, it is easy to mistake yourself as someone who is ‘well connected’ for someone who is actually being antisocial in a day to day situation.

Nowadays nearly everything is or can be done online. This often results in time spent online taking precedence over living in the real world. With it all at our fingertips it is easy to get side-tracked from our daily duties scrolling through newsfeeds on social media sites or partaking in never ending conversations on instant messaging apps. We don’t even need to get up out of bed and dressed to go shopping anymore, there is an app for that too!

Smartphone’s have made humans lazy and whilst making communication quicker and easier they have in fact made it far less personal. You often see people walking around with their heads down into their devices and not actually paying attention to what is going on around them, oblivious to their surroundings.

Smartphone’s are considered to be psychologically addictive and encourage narcissistic tendencies. Some researchers believe that they should come with health warnings due to the negative impact they can have on our lives. While taking selfies on Instagram, videos on Snapchat and documenting our lives through social can be fun, there is a fine line between that and excessive vanity, attention seeking and even causing low self-esteem issues. Receiving recognition through likes and followers, being able to engage with others and have a social media presence can be rewarding.

However, depending on the person, it can soon develop into an unhealthy obsession especially for young millennials who are considered the most connected and easily influenced population group. It’s easy to get addicted to this sense of fulfilment and temporary happiness. This can have detrimental effects for individuals such as not being as receptive to people we do actually spend the most time with, for example, causing a breakdown in communication amongst family and friends.

Smart phones are undoubtedly a distraction and excessive use in social situations can also be considered ill-mannered. A study by the University of Derby, published in the International Journal of Cyber Behaviour, Psychology and Learning showed smartphones having a negative impact on familial relationships as well as friendships because of users spending too much time on their devices, engaging in less conversation, “the majority of participants said their smartphone use caused distraction from many aspects of their lives, including employment, hobbies and studies”. (Smartphones are addictive and should carry health warning, say academics)

It is important to appreciate physical company and human interaction. Quite often people who live on their phones subconsciously isolate themselves and disconnect from reality which can contribute towards mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Social media, although being hugely advantageous can increase competitiveness in relation to body image, beauty ideals and measuring personal success.

People’s lives are more accessible, this can have an adverse impact on how we compare ourselves to others and lose focus on our own aspirations; as well as trying to maintain an online persona, not being a true representation of yourself, trying to please others.

Having highlighted the dangers of smart phone use we must give them credit being a fantastic invention. They make experiences online more accessible and affordable especially with regards to communicating with family and friends overseas. Talking to people through Skype or FaceTime is literally done at the click of a button. This is beneficial not only socially but also in the world of business and is in fact how some people can now interview working for a company in another continent opening a world of opportunity.

Technology has advanced rapidly over the years, ten years ago it was a luxury to have a polyphonic ring tone and a camera built in to your phone, let alone owning a mini computer that you can voice command, make video calls with plus satellite navigation. Smartphone apps are extremely useful and enable us to learn how to do things that we wouldn’t necessarily stumble across otherwise.

As with anything we consume, the important thing to master is getting the balance right. Aim to be smarter than your smart phone and recognise when you maybe using it a little too often for the sake of others as well as your sanity. As with other addictions, indulging in something so much every day could worsen your health and general wellbeing. Take regular breaks from your smartphone so that you can appreciate living in the moment and are able to think and function as you would normally before the birth of these remarkable gadgets.

If not, you may miss out on real life opportunities and risk losing people that matter more to you than your online popularity and capabilities.

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