It is a tough question. Like so many new technologies we don’t really know how to handle it yet. At the same time, it holds a great deal of promise.
Smartphones have changed the scene entirely. They’ve changed communication, distraction, education and the way we see the world. As is always the case with new technologies, we can’t yet know whether that’s a blessing or a curse. The ball is still in the air on that one and both sides of the debate have some pretty good arguments.
This greatly distracts students from studying. They concentrate on their smartphones, social networks, and Instagram. Now they do not write their essays, they order them while forgetting to look at writing services company reviews.
Here I thought we’d take some time to look at some of the issues on both sides of the debate so that you might be in a better position to make up your mind on your own. After all, only when we have all the information can we make an accurate judgment.They really are quite addictive
Never before has something so effectively hijacked our reward and habitual systems. After all, we evolved in a world of trees and bees, birds and bushes. Nothing gave us the immediate, quick and repetitive feedback that smartphones do.
That means that they channel our instincts and reward systems in ways that evolution never planned for. As Steven Pinker said, “Cheesecake packs a sensual wallop unlike anything in the natural world because it is a brew of megadoses of agreeable stimuli which we concocted for the express purpose of pressing our pleasure buttons”
In that same way, we aren’t prepared for smartphones, which do the same thing on a visual and cerebral level.And they’ll get more so
And, as Nir Eyal argues in his book Hooked, It will get even worse. The science of habit formation and addiction is ever-advancing. Similarly, the people who are designing the software and the machines are getting ever better at it. That creates a heck of a combination.
And that combination is going to consistently be used to make their machines more addictive and their use more compulsive. After all, the moment they don’t decide to play the game and don’t decide to take advantage of the newest discoveries, they will go out of business, as somebody who is willing to take that step takes their market share.
That’s the way that competition and capitalism work.
So if you think modern smartphones are addictive, you ain't seen nothing yet. They’ will most certainly continue down that track. Even if the government intervenes and decides certain practices will be rendered illegal, that will hardly make much of a difference. The government has demonstrated, again and again, that in this modern age they are too slow to deal with the developments in certain fields.
That means that as soon as they manage to close one avenue, another will certainly open.So what’s the other side of the coin?
At the same time, it’s not all bad news. Sure, these machines are highly addictive. At the same time, where there’s a demand, there will be people who want to fill it. And there is already an ever-growing demand for smartphones to aid productivity instead of reducing it.
This we can see in the apps being developed. There are apps out there that allow the cataloging and storage of information like never before. In fact, if you’d want to, your phone could hold more information than a library could only 30 years ago. That’s tremendous.
Similarly, people are looking for ways to block out the worst parts of the habit formation. These include tools that block certain websites, such as stay focused. Similarly, there is a constant stream of new software packages that aim to boost productivity or outsource undesired tasks.
There not all effective (most simply make people feel like they’re more productive, rather than actually making them more productive – much like how we thought multitasking was effective). At the same time, there are enough organizations out there trying to figure out which do work and which don’t. In this way, we can hope that as time goes on we’ll see actual apps that boost our productivity (and our actual happiness) more and more.
What’s more, people will get an ever better idea of how to side-step the harmful effects that smartphones have to offer. Though the government will be slow in legislating the correct ways to deal with the harmful effects of smartphones, society as a whole will be much quicker in understanding how to deal with these technologies correctly.
And that will lead to an ever better best-practices spreading. How much should children consume? How can students benefit the best from such technologies? What can we do to avoid the harmful effects?So what does that mean?
The truth is that we’re still learning how to deal with smartphones. Much like when hard liquor was invented for the first time, society still has to work out what works and what does not. For a time, hard liquor did a huge amount of damage as people over-indulged without knowing the consequences or the side-effects. An entire generation of people was lost as they realized too late what it meant to over-indulge in alcohol and how destructive that could be.
Nowadays, though no doubt the effects of alcohol are still harmful to many, they are not even close to as damaging as they were in days gone past. Alcohol is no longer seen as a ‘plague destroying our cities and societies’. We learned the right mental practices to protect ourselves from the most harmful effects.
The same thing will happen (and already is happening) with smartphones. In the years to come, while industries will no doubt get better at making smartphones more addictive, people will also get better at resisting those effects. They’ll get better at limiting their consumption, resisting the lure of the smartphone and in other ways creating a set of best-practices.
The future will probably be brighter.But the future isn’t today
That’s great for future students. At the same time, we’re not there yet. We’re still building the right mental antibodies. That means that current students need to be careful and fully aware of the dangers that are out there.
Phones can be helpful, but only if you understand the dangers hidden inside that small little box in your pocket. That box was not built to make you happy. It was built to make money for the company that built it.
If making you happy means that they’ll make more money, then they’ll make you happy. If on the other hand, they can make more money making you addicted and miserable, then that is what they will do.
Similarly, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything costs something, even when you aren’t paying today. That is something that needs to be considered with each piece of software, each app, and each online social media platform.The verdict
Calling smartphones evil is probably going to put you on the wrong side of history. After all, every new technology every invented has been called evil by somebody. People though the train was a devil’s tool and that going so fast would turn the organs to liquid.
The telephone was thought to encourage gossiping and lead people to stop being productive. The printing press, too, had a generation of people that tried to prevent its introduction.
In a few decades, smartphones will have joined that list, as they continue to revolutionize society.
That does not mean they don’t have their drawbacks, however. Just like the train has its unforeseen side effects (pollution) we’re only just starting to understand what the smartphone will do to us. For that reason, we should embrace it for the good it can do us – be it in the classroom or outside it. At the same time, there are most certainly harms – hidden or otherwise. To ignore those is to risk a life of addiction and lost productivity.
And though that will certainly make the software and smartphone makers very happy, it will do nothing of the kind for you.