How did you know about this blog post?
It’s likely that you were notified by your smartphone or device, the notification itself as a part of trundle that you’re figuratively swiping left in-between email reminders about upcoming events and direct messages from your favourite social media. Or you were trawling your usual network feeds for updates to catch your attention.
Now if you were to time the window in which you check your smart device again for notifications, new messages or general updates, I’d bet that this window would be within a minute or just outside of it, and would require no prompting whatsoever… much like, say, breathing?
On the way to lunch this past week I had to tell three pedestrians to “Look up!” because they were walking on their smartphones while walking through the mess of the CBD at lunch time and just asking for some bad luck to go down. One was even across the intersection while the walk sign was red! Roadworks or not. However these smart device distractions amongst societal situations where we should become actively engaged, are becoming less distractive and more the norm.
Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this also (stands up in anonymous meeting group circle) “Hi everyone, it’s been 24 days, 4 hours and 19 minutes since my last smart device infringement…”
Separating norms, habits and addictions have become difficult in this regard. A study conducted last year on 205 users, ranging from ages 16 to about 64, and spanning across the UK, China, Australia and the US, drew a preliminary conclusion that people grow emotionally attached to their smartphones. Obviously, a lost or stolen phone can be replaced, and even more conveniently, the data backup restored to the replacement. However the same cannot be said for a lost pet dog for instance.
The study in fact suggests that the emotional connection comes from is the connectivity and community the device facilitates – what we’re actually sacrificing for behavioural controls is the luxury of functionality.
It is with the ease of which these devices can be used, the ability to pour one’s life into apps and social networks, customise and personalise options, is what creates the need for us to be close to it, the loss of it coming with the emotional baggage of disconnection and an inability to “interact substantially”.
Do we know what life was like before this? I would say kind of, but maybe in another ten years’ time, not so much. Sure, we still have to get off our butts for some of our daily activities, but as we move, so does our devices, both figuratively and literally.
We’re well and truly plugged in; it’s the world we live in now. I can get my plumbing fixed and a slice of cake brought to my doorstep by a complete stranger on a single app (and trust that it will happen). Why not?
For further reading on the study, see the article under Computers in Human Behaviour.