Over the past several years, owning a smartphone has transitioned from being a status symbol to a necessity. Smartphones today represent an integral part of society; many people rely on their phones for important everyday tasks. Yet while smartphones continue to increase in popularity, they actually have a negative effect on society as a whole.
One of the most important capabilities of a smartphones is that they give people the opportunity to have constant access to e-mail, which can cause a lot of stress. This can allow people to continue to interact with their professional lives at any time during the day. While constant e-mail access can arguably make businesses run a bit more smoothly, it means that working professionals with smartphones can no longer escape from their careers. According to a 2011 article by the New York Times, because of smartphones “work has invaded the home and the boundary is likely never to be restored.” This can put a lot of pressure on employees to remain constantly connected to work. This lack of time for relaxation can lead to employee burnout and decreased productivity as well as decreased quality of family interactions.
Although smartphones can provide a wealth of information at fast speeds, this can reduce the ability for people to think independently from their devices. When having a conversation about one topic or another, one can now simply take out their phone and search for relevant information. While this certainly seems convenient at face value, it reduces our capacity to recall information that is stored in our memory. According to an article by Forbes Magazine, a 2011 study showed that workers who abstained from e-mail and smartphones for a week were less stressed and more focused on tasks than their colleagues. Like any other muscle, the brain needs exercise and smartphones provide it the opportunity to rest. Over the long term, this may have negative effects on memory and recall.
Smartphones are designed to increase the ways in which people can communicate with one another and while they have been successful in this regard, they have inadvertently lead to a decrease in the quality of this communication. According to Public Radio International “smartphones have increased the amount of interaction we have, but have decreased the quality of that interaction.” With increased access to the Internet, smartphones have helped fuel a growth in social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
One way to quantify the change in communication is to examine phone contracts. When signing up for a smartphone contract with Verizon Wireless, consumers used to be able to purchase unlimited Internet data for thirty dollars per month. In addition, consumers would choose how many minutes they would like to be able to talk on the phone per month and would be charged in a tiered system. However, in 2012 Verizon introduced a new Share Everything plan and did away with the old system. In the new Verizon smartphone plans, consumers get unlimited voice minutes for a charge of zero dollars per month and instead pay in a tiered system for data. One may ask why Verizon would shift like this. The answer lies in the fact that Verizon smartphone customers now spend much less time talking on their phone than browsing the Internet. In an attempt to maximize profits, Verizon shifted it’s contracts to reflect this change in it’s consumers. In effect, social media posts and text messages are quickly replacing more personal phone calls.
While smartphones have increased people’s access to technology, this has not yielded positive results. Smartphones are designed to supplement and enhance human communication, but in effect they are overtaking it.