Don’t throw your smartphone away – use it more efficiently

In a recent opinion piece for everyone’s favourite newspaper, The Guardian, Rhik Samadder, makes the case of getting rid of your smart phone. His goal: leaving the phone in a different room, and only replying to messages once a day. We’ll leave the fact that Guardian columnists seemingly don’t need to react to breaking news, and that his once-a-day use of the phone is probably ten times longer than he’d spend if he had it constantly: how large does your degree of technopanic have to be in order to throw away the most useful commercially accessible tool in modern history?

Rhik Samadder writes in his column:

“The real problem is that my phone is the first thing I look at in the morning, and the last thing I look at at night. I come running when it makes a “ding” noise. I think in tweets and look at meals and people and imagine them cropped into squares on Instagram. There is something mentally totalitarian about it.”

Yeah mentally totalitarian, just in the way that it makes him post tweets like these:

But enough with the banter, since he raises an issue which has been a talking point for a while now. The fact that we spend considerably more time on our phones then we did just a couple of years ago, does raise questions. How do we behave with a device like this at the lunch and dinner table? Are we too consumed by the constant social media pressure? The evidence for the latter is certainly spare.

Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University has written about the Facebook addiction debate; he argues that there are differences between addictions on the internet and an addiction to the internet.

He explains that, from games to messaging, Facebook offers a wide range of uses. That means it is incredibly difficult to define “social media use”. “What this suggests is that the field needs a psychometrically validated scale that specifically assesses ‘social networking addiction’ rather than Facebook use.” This is very far from regular suggestions that we must apparently recognise and address these challenges as a threat to public health.

The fact that social media connects to important people, makes us communicate in vital situations, and has given us opportunities we otherwise wouldn’t have, makes it essential to our lives. The smartphone in itself helps us organise our day, take pictures of the bus schedule, navigate around a city or research the interviewer we’re about to meet. Yes, you can also share cat videos, but he does that compare to all the useful features it provides? Also, how “addicted” can you be to a useful tool? Are we addicted to cars? Our shoes? Our umbrellas? Eventually, we’ll have to stop pretend that we’re slaves of a mindless consumer trick and recognise that we’re actually very content with the products we buy, and for a good reason: they improve our lives! Anyone who’d deny that modern technology has massively improved our daily lives would be ignorant of the hardships of previous generations. Technology improves our lives almost immeasurably. Does that mean that we’ll have to figure out how to text and walk? Possibly. But let the suggestion be made that we should take that risk over reducing human advancement for a paranoid feeling of “addiction”.

And no Rhik Samadder, I wasn’t going to let your short “Actors become politicians, so why not put MPs in musicals” at the end of your piece slide either. You write:

“The obvious response is for our retired politicians to pick up the gauntlet, and take on the plum roles of stage and screen. Wouldn’t you binge-watch Ed Miliband in A Series of Unfortunate Events, or Nick Clegg in the next season of The Walking Dead?”


This article was first published by Freedom Today.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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