Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid?

June 15, 2015   |   by Chris Kalaboukis

smartphoneThere has been a lot of talk recently about how horrible it is that we spend so much time on our smartphones – our smartphones are rotting our brains – we can’t think for ourselves because we have our smartphones. Why do so many people out there rage on smartphone use – typically posting these missives from their smartphones (usually a tweet)?

Every now and then you get something like the I Forgot My Phone, which, while well done, again shows the dangers of technology – over does it for sure – people experiencing life through their phones as opposed to experiencing it directly.

Let’s take a step back and think about experiences. What is the difference between an experience that you get by being fully in the moment and in the physical location of the experience, and an experience which you may have of say, watching a video of the experience, or even, at some point in the next few years, experiencing it with something like Oculus Rift or even 3D viewers like the Avegant Glyph? Very little, apparently.

What do experiences become once we’ve had them? Memories. And how are memories created? By experiences. However memory is a complex thing – its been proven that memories of doing something can easily be just as strong as memories of watching something.

Let’s say that you took two people, and sent one to Paris for a week. The other one you sat in front for YouTube for a week, watching videos of Paris. At the end of the week, maybe the one who actually went to Paris would have stronger memories of the trip, but if you skip forward a few months – not even that – say a few weeks – and they are back at work doing their jobs – living their normal lives – then I’d wager that their memories might be comparable.

So lets say that experiencing things via our smartphones and experiencing things in person will eventually lead up to similar memories. If that is the case, what really is the downside of experiencing life through a smartphone, when you need to?

Plus, think about all the other benefits of the smartphone:

  1. You can fake an urgent call to get out of a boring date or meeting (had it on vibrate, you know)
  2. Its an expansion of our brains, when we forget the name of that movie that actress was in and want to tell our friends at dinner. And, of course, a lot more.
  3. It can take us away from the drudgery in our lives for a moment by lightening our mood with a funny video, or text from someone you haven’t heard from in a while

Plus, there are a few things the smartphone detractors forget to mention:

  1. They are simply tools: like any tool, they can be used properly (stow them when you are having an intimate conversation and don’t look at your Apple Watch even if its buzzing away) or improperly (you must have seen tables at restaurants where everyone is ignoring everyone else and is on their phones)
  2. They are here to stay: the smartphone is not going away anytime soon. It may however be supplanted by other technologies which are less intrusive (some of the secret stuff I’m working on right now as a matter of fact).

So I say – get used to it – the brain expanding, experience creating smartphone is here to stay and I for one applaud it. What are your thoughts?