If you remember the days when going down the street to deliver a message to a neighbor was the norm, you are amongst they very fortunate. Not fortunate because you had to walk an extra block in Summer heat, not fortunate, because you may have had to carry a dense cake back home with you, and certainly not fortunate if the lonely old couple held you captive until dinner time with old war stories. You are fortunate, however, because even from a young age you would have been exposed to one-on-one and face-to-face communication skills. Skills that throughout life not only help to forge strong relationships, but also help to better understand those around us.
Since its emergence in the mid 1980s, the cell phone has drastically changed the way in which society communicates. Firstly, by allowing owners to connect with others on the go, with the intentions of not only expanding horizons for business, but also for personal life. Then, text messaging (SMS) emerged and it became even easier to communicate quick tidbits while on the go. For a while this new form of mobile communication seemed to be an answer to many prayers, but was there a point when having too much access while on the go became a threat? The smarthphone emerged and suddenly talk and text met information and Internet and we became a fully engrossed society. With the addition of social media applications, the smartphone not only served as a communication device, but a device of instantaneous virtual self-expression.
Many trend studies including those from Baylor University and U.S. NEWS and World Report have brought attention to the rising number of cell-phone addicts. According to Baylor University’s study, the behaviors associated with an addiction to one’s cell phone are primarily similar to the same behaviors associated with compulsive buying and credit card use. Impulsivity and a need for instant gratification rank the top two in comparison. Thus, if the disease of addiction brings forth similar behaviors in addicts, regardless of the drug of choice, it is a newly found addiction that must be paid close attention to.
On Saturday, May 3rd, of 2014, our assigned group of journalists, consisting of one proctor, one videographer, a secretary, and two interviewers presented a short video on addiction and then lead into discussion regarding cell phones, the addiction associated, and the negative effects it has on our culture and the communication therein. Many student subjects wished to have their identities kept anonymous, but one graduating political science major made it clear that she wanted her opinion heard. “It’s wrong, disrespectful, and downright rude that those in our generation pay closer attention to their phones and Facebook statuses than they do the person sitting right across from them.” She later added, “If I invite my girlfriends out to lunch to catch up and share stories together, than that means I invited them, not their social entourage they bring with them via their cells.”
Her comments later lead into an even bigger discussion whether or not this new social norm of having attention split between the live individual and virtual reality was an acceptable social norm. One twenty-three year old guest spoke up about her stance, “It is a rising problem, us not really paying full attention to those around us, but it’s becoming the social norm. After a while, I just really get the urge to check my phone to see what’s going on.” “It’s nice to see people liking my pictures and my statuses, it makes me feel good and I want to check in on that”, she concluded. Relating to our guests comments, James Roberts, a professor of Marketing at Baylor University remarked, “That’s particularly true when we use them excessively in public,” he added. “Because when we do so we’re signaling that we’ve got this shiny object, this status symbol, our iPhone or Android or Blackberry, and that we’ve got important people to talk to or text, who are maybe even more important than the people right in front of us. And that we’re so important that we have to talk everywhere and all the time in front of others. And all of that is an expression of materialism.”
The loss of face-to-face communication is real, cell phone addictions are increasingly rising, and the stances many individuals take on the issue are differing. Thus, it is increasingly important to remain abreast of the issue, staying on top of the research and knowledge gathered and remember to sometimes disconnect from the technological world, in order to connect to the real one.
The following podcast dives into an argument of whether mobile devices could be addictive or not. It includes quotes by psychologists Dr. Anthony Iacovelli, Dr. Shari Walsh, and Ira Herman pertaining to behaviors people have that could be compared to behaviors of people whom are addicted to other mind and mood altering substances.
“Passengers please turn off all cell phones, computers, e-readers and other devices once the cabin door is closed, and leave them off until the plane reaches 10,000 feet.”
For many passengers the time it takes to ascend to 10,000 feet is equivalent to a lifetime. On average young adults send 109.5 text messages a day, 3,200 texts each month, and check their cellphone about 60 times in a day. College students will spend about seven hours a day using a piece of communication technology.
Evaluating if someone has an unhealthy attachment to his or her cell phone is hard to determine. Since cell phones have become engrained in almost everyone’s daily life it is hard to measure is someone is actually addicted to their cell phone. Addictions such as sex addictions, shopping addictions, or work addictions each have odd and obvious behavioral patterns attached to them.
It’s not odd for someone to pull out their cellphone in a room full of crowded people. It is also no longer odd to allow your two-year-old daughter to play with a cell phone instead of playing in a park.
“Frequent users often become anxious when they are forced to turn off the phone or if they forget it at homes, so much so that they can’t enjoy what they are doing,” says Lisa Merlo, professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Cell phone users are categorized as addicts if they feel compelled to constantly check their phones for new text messages, voicemails, missed calls, or snap chats.
“(It’s) this need to be connected, to know what’s going on and be available to other people. That’s one of the hallmarks of cellphone addiction,” said Merlo.
Addiction cases chemical changes in the brain, but scientists have not yet been able to observe what happened to the brain of those who are addicted to cellphones.
According to a study conducted by Professor Roberts and Professor Williams cell phone and instant messaging addictions are simply a byproduct of materialism and impulsiveness, which is comparable to compulsive buying, and credit care misuse.
Due to people being addicted to their cell phones they become nothing more than fashion statements or a means of acquire information. People are no longer using their cell phones to communicate in traditional fashions.
“At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cell phone use as merely youthful nonsense- a passing fad. But an emerging body of literature have given increasing credence to cell phone addiction and similar behavioral addictions,” said Professor Roberts.
Steve Jobs said, “What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”
Has the computer taken over our lives? Have we become so addicted that we can no longer play our role as a productive member of society? With companies continuing to create innovated products to keep the masses happy, the link below I illustrates how humans have become addicted to their miniature pocket sized computers: