This is the next installment in my Twitter-inspired series of posts. Thanks to Brian @theBrianBurgess for the topic!
Let’s start with an exercise. Reach into your pocket, pull out your smartphone and look at the time. I’m guessing you just had one of two outcomes. A) You realized the last time you looked at your phone was five minutes ago, or B) You can’t do this because you’re already on your phone. But there is a C out there that supposedly exists, and in this blog post I’m going to be talking specifically about this group: Those without smartphones.
As Brian pointed out, there are some people who don’t have a smartphone. They don’t have the need for one. That statement got me thinking, though, do any of us actually need a smartphone? I want to postulate three reasons why you don’t need one. Why none of us need them. Come on class, let’s get started.
Smartphones are responsible for the downfall of productivity.
Okay, I don’t honestly believe this, but I think there are many people that do. The math is pretty simple, you know? I pulled up screentime on my phone and saw something utterly disturbing:
Do you see that Total Screen Time on the bottom? In less than a week, I spent more than a full day on my phone… and that’s down 38% from last week. Travel back in time 20 years and I guarantee you I wasn’t playing Snake on my phone for 25 hours a week. So where did these 25 hours come from? What have I traded to get these 25 hours of non-productivity?
20 years ago, DVRs were pretty popular (I think that’s about the right timeline?). Do you remember them? We’d record everything we wanted to watch, even shows that weren’t the most interesting, just as long as we had enough time to record the ones that were the most. Like, I used to keep hours of Jeopardy! recorded at a time so I could binge watch trivia.
This was before the on-demand service days where things like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. were just some pipe dream. But I’d watch hours of TV every day, soaking in that interaction in the form of someone on a screen doing things to entertain me. Not much has changed. The difference is I don’t have to think in advance if there’s something I want to watch, I can find out about it after the fact.
Smartphones are an evil tether that never lets you be free.
This is a fair argument. How many times do you get an email after hours that requires your immediate attention? I think it became more clear during the COVID pandemic. We all got to work from home (well those with office jobs, sorry essential workers!) and we accepted the freedom of not having to dress up everyday for being available 24/7/365 to our bosses and clients.
Now that people are for better or worse going back to the office, that availability schedule hasn’t returned to the former strict 40-hour weeks. So you’re stuck with this tether, most likely for the rest of your life. You have no freedom anymore, your master is that device in your hand that controls your work, entertainment, and for many of us, the other tech in our lives.
Smartphones means more pictures, more pictures means more crap on Instagram.
Yep. 100%. Everyone’s taking pictures of every meal they eat (instead of just enjoying it), every special random moment with their kids (instead of just enjoying it), every beautiful day outside (instead of just enjoying it). It’s kind of depressing that the world has gone into a storage format where you don’t enjoy things in the moment, you save them for consumption later.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s those times where you’re sitting up at 2:00 AM on a Thursday morning, in someone else’s house and you’re sharing random pictures on your phone. You find one from 2015 that was an awesome memory, you show it off, then it’s gone from your mind immediately when you find a meme you randomly saved.
We don’t enjoy things the way we used to. That’s a fact. Whether that’s a problem or not is up to you.
I mean, this isn’t something that I can say one is better than the other. The tradeoffs are too great and the individual preference so varied that there’s no one size fits all solution to the smartphone epidemic. My advice to you is if you’ve got a smartphone, use it in moderation, I’ll do my best to do so as well.