Steve Jobs, the founder and former CEO of Apple, is credited as a visionary for the advent of the iPhone and the smartphone device in general. Truly, in less than ten years’ time, the smartphone has changed the fabric of our society. Huge swaths of our population now carry the internet wherever they go and have the ability to communicate in an endless number of mediums and channels with others around the globe. It’s hard to exaggerate the impact smartphones have had on our daily lives and our culture at large.
But, as with any cultural shift in our society, there is both the good and the bad. Our smartphone culture is here to stay. Here we take a look at what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost in the last ten years.
The Positives of Smartphone Culture
Where once our backpacks and purses were filled with CD players, cell phones, cameras, video cameras, calculators, laptops, GPS devices, e-readers, and more, we now only need a carry a small, light-weight smartphone to accomplish all those tasks. Smartphones are powerful, little devices, and they have done much for our society.
Here are just some quick stats on smart phone usage.
- 80% of internet users own a smartphone (Smart Insights)
- By 2019, mobile advertising will account for 72% of all US digital ad spending (Marketing Land)
- 48% of millennials view video exclusively on their mobile devices. (IAB)
Clearly, smartphones are tremendously popular with multiple generations and demographics, and their use has had wide-reaching effects on our culture.
- Cameras Everywhere: When everyone has cameras in their pocket, we are digitizing and immortalizing the era. From cute GIFs of cats to videos sparking national debates, a whole population with video cameras at their disposal is something we have never seen before.
- Use in Education: Students can snap pictures of their notes to send to classmates, answer quick online quizzes and polls created by their teachers, and even record full lectures with their smartphones. The potential applications for smartphones in educational settings is only just being explored.
- Use in Business: Business professionals can more easily access their business communications, more quickly respond to an urgent needs, and do more with less time. For small businesses, smartphones can give quick access to banking functions and allow you to manage your social media accounts on the go.
The Negatives of Smartphone Culture
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): There’s a phenomenon that has occurred due to society’s constant connections to social media called the “Fear of Missing Out.” When one is constantly seeing the noteworthy, exciting, or glamorous events of the lives of one’s social media connections, people feel as though their own life is drab and dull by comparison. They fear that they are missing out on their own life. Darlene McLaughlin, M.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine describes the problem in a Science Daily article, “The problem with FOMO is the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward. When you’re so tuned in to the ‘other,’ or the ‘better’ (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self. This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world.”
- Nomophobia: Nomophobia is a new diagnosable disorder in which the subject has an irrational fear of losing or being without their smartphone. As we become more and more dependent on these devices, our ability to cope without them dwindles. According to a survey by SecurEnvoy, 77% of teens had anxiety about spending their day without their phone.
The Good and Bad
There’s an old adage that applies here, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” While our dependence on smartphones may incur some social and psychological challenges as we adapt to this new society, these issues can be mitigated by a healthy balance. Overindulgence in our smartphones can cause problems, but their benefits to our culture, education, and businesses greatly outweighs the cost.