9 Reasons To Fear Your Smart Phone

The following is an editorial.


There ought to be a warning on that new smart phone you bought. It should read, “Danger. This device may permanently impair your ability to function as a human being.” Lest you think this is all in jest, you’d best read on for 9 alarming facts that pertain to smart phones and the industry behind them that hopes you ignore me.


Fact 1: Smart phones are more addictive than cigarettes. Ask yourself this: Can you turn your smart phone off and not be tempted to turn it back on for a time period exceeding 2 hours? Or can you easily ignore a ping from your smart phone which notifies you of a new email, social status update, or incoming phone call? Finally, do you take your smart phone with you wherever you go? I rest my case.


Fact 2: Smart phones have become the ultimate status symbols. Answer this: What do the majority of all children want as a gift? Hint: All their friends already have one or are getting one for their next birthday or Christmas. For that matter, what do you or your significant other want that all your friends carry with them wherever they go? I’m betting if it’s not a smart phone, it’s one of smart phone’s close cousins (i.e. the smart pad, which I should point out is equally dangerous). Need I say more?


Fact 3: Smart phones are far too expensive. Sure, you can get a so-called “free” smart phone by signing up for a two year voice/data contract, but that contract is likely to run anywhere from $50 to $150 a month or more. Let’s pick a spot in the middle and call it $75 bucks. Over the next 30 years, that $75 monthly expense will drain ($75 x 12 months per year x 30 years equal) $27,000 from you wallet. This sum does not include the money you’ll pay for content including apps, music, movies and the like. Call that another $40 a month and you’ll spend an additional ($40 x 12 x 30 equals) $14,400!


Add it up and you’ve spent $41,400 for your addiction. Plus, if you haven’t already figured it out, all that data they want you to store in the “Cloud” will ultimately come at its own cost. Sure they can give a certain quantity away for free now, but that’s because they want to hook you on using it. And when they have you hooked, who’s going to argue with paying a monthly fee for all that storage? Better add another 10 to 15 grand for that so now were talking $50,000 plus.


Now, consider how much money you make in a year. After taxes, would it even be enough to cover a $50,000 expense? Put in other terms: How much of your salary (i.e. your life blood) should or would you be willing to give away to support an addiction? It’s worth considering.


Fact 4: Smart phones make you stupid. Don’t believe me? How do you go about typing emails or text messages? You abbreviate or use acronyms, right? For example, laughing out loud becomes LOL. And very soon all these abbreviations and acronyms are combined and soon become a simple language of their own. In fact, people all over now hold entire conversations this way, and in the process they forget or fail to learn how to communicate like people have been doing since the beginning of time.


Another example: Have you noticed how simple messages are now the rage on the internet? Just look on Facebook or sites like Pinterest and you’ll see any number of one or two sentence messages that are combined with a picture or drawing that get posted again and again. It’s almost as if the creators believe we no longer have the ability to read or think in depth, or that wisdom is best dispensed in small, easily digestible bites.


Finally, go to use the smart phone application for a company like Facebook and see if you can make it do everything the full version does on your laptop or PC. You can’t, right? The bottom line is the companies don’t want you to think too much. They want to give you just enough functionality to hook you on their device and then do all the thinking for you. Why? Because then they can push more and more products and services your way and in the process rake in the bucks. Amazingly, we eat this up! Don’t buy it? Then tell me why Apple is such a huge success.


Fact 5: In a few years, people who own smart phones will be begging to sign up for brain surgery. I kid you not! In just a few years companies will offer you a brain implant that will provide all the functionality of a smart phone. Why carry a device around when you can get pump all that information straight into your head? Just consider all the benefits: You’ll be able to sync up all the data on all the electronic devices you own just by thinking about it. You’ll be able to text messages with the blink of an eye. Tug an earlobe and you can run an internet search. Scratch your nose and flip over to Facebook.


Let’s face it: With all the possibilities who wouldn’t want a chip? After all, the brain surgery will be as simple as attaching a microscopic-sized chip to a microscopic-sized robot that crawls through your bloodstream all the way to your brain. Of course there are risks, but like any surgery the percentages for death or injury will be relatively small so expect it to be fast-tracked for approval by the FDA.


Fact 6: Smart phones prevent normal human interaction. This one should be obvious. Let’s take an example. You sit down to dinner and are having a nice family chat. In the process you learn your favorite Aunt Millie just had surgery. You’re about to ask how it went when your smart phone pings you. What do you do? You jump up from the table and snatch up the phone. After all, it could be Susie’s updating her status on Facebook and how can you possibly miss that?


Without considering the consequences, your action interrupts the family conversation and your train of thought. Unfortunately, you never learn Aunt Millie’s operation was fatal, so then get mad a few days later when someone mentions her funeral.


Interruptions like these are more and more common and viewed as acceptable, yet they severally impact our ability to communicate face-to-face. In fact, our children are actually spending so much time texting on their phones they aren’t learning common visual cues that accompany most conversation. This matters when they go to school and have to deal with others in person. Their reactions are stunted. Their ability to pick up sarcasm and nuance are limited. They don’t fully understand other students or teachers and so their ability to learn is impaired.


Fact 7: The companies promoting smart phones and related services own you. Smart phones contain a GPS chip which is used for some innocuous purposes like getting directions from point A to point B. At the same time, GPS chips are now being used to note your exact location. Unless you opt out, people will see your “place” or location in your status on social media sites like Facebook. But it goes much deeper.


GPS allows government agencies to track your activities. It also allows companies to promote their services to customers within a certain geographical area. For example, companies like Groupon can direct specific coupons to customers currently at or near a certain location. From the outside this can be viewed as a cool method for getting good deals. Unfortunately, it also means smart phone users are constantly spammed with targeted advertising designed to make them part with some of their hard-earned cash—whether they can afford it or not.


There is another important issue here, too. Every application on your smart phone is provided after accepting a company’s user agreement. This means every time you download an app you also agree to the company’s terms and conditions for use. If you don’t read these agreements (and who does) the risk you face includes things like giving up more and more of your privacy or signing up for monthly services or charges you may not want and probably can’t afford. This happens more often than most people realize.


Fact #8: Smart phones are wiping out jobs. The promise of technology has always been to provide humanity with a life of leisure. We were told one day we’d be able to sit back and have machines do all the work for us. Unfortunately, no one ever bothered to mention who was going to pay for all those machines. They forget to mention the machines would come with monthly charges, and would need constant upgrades.


They also forgot to mention that our ability to support our families would disappear as the technological advances allowed machines to take our place in the workforce. Of course, companies driven by the profit motive love machines to replace workers because machines (a) don’t complain and (b) can be run around the clock.


Finally, we weren’t told we’d need to find 2 or even 3 low paying service jobs to make up for losing the job the machine took from us in the first place. In the end, the promise of technology has meant job displacement, downsizing and outsourcing, all at a time when technology makes day-to-day living more and more expensive.


Fact #9: Smart phones are killing people. Pshaw, you say? If you doubt it, simply run a web search on Foxconn suicides, the Chinese company Apple and many other large companies uses to build their portable devices. Foxconn workers are housed 12 to a room in onsite dormitories, work 10 hour shifts 6 out of 7 days a week, and are required to respond to any production issues that crop up any and all hours of the day or night. These employees remain at the whim of their employers needs to meet production goals.


While it’s true most everything we deem desirable comes with a cost, sometimes the toll means humans pay the price. Also worth mentioning is that most all computer/smart phone manufacturers use certain components made or derived from toxic chemicals. In certain regions of the world, entire communities pay the toll through rising cancer rates, birth defects, and yes, even death.


Is Our Future In Peril?


No one can argue over the convenience of smart phones, but it’s clear they’re rapidly changing life as we know it. Smart phones have only been around a few years, yet people now spend up to several hours a day interacting with them. They read books on them, they watch movies, they play games, they do business, they text, they call and so much more. In fact, these devices are so convenient for so many tasks we start to view them as indispensable. But are they? And at what ultimate cost?


It’s hard to imagine the smart phone industry is still in its infancy and we have yet to fully embrace this technology. However, there’s a question I keep coming back to: Should we embrace this or any technology so fully before we come to know the real costs of the risks involved?


I for one enjoy quiet dinners with family and friends without interruption from smart phones. I like to walk the beach and put the workday completely out of my mind. I like uninterrupted sleep. I still enjoy reading a real book or watching a play in the theater. I think there are valuable lessons to be learned by interacting with others face-to-face, live and in person. Yet all these things I’m fond of now seem to be at risk of disappearing from the face of the earth.


I can’t imagine being a teacher now and living with smart phones in the classroom. There are so many ways they can be used to cause disruption. Kids can do anything from pass notes, surf for porn, or secretly record teachers or other students in action and post the results online. And I hate that employers have gradually eroded the rights of workers by blurring the line between job and home. Smart phones only encourage that by putting everyone on call 24/7. I’m also disturbed to no end that businesses and governments are finding more and more ways to pry into my personal life. From GPS to tracking cookies to monitoring how I search the internet, my ability to keep my personal life private has become severally limited.


If you start to project the trend, you begin to see other disturbing possibilities. Will we really need schools if people can “learn” everything they need to know on smart devices? Will we need libraries or book stores if most books are no longer printed? Will we need movie theaters or music concerts if you can download the same thing from our virtual world? In fact, all these services and more can easily be replaced by their online counterparts. Unfortunately, this means an entire class of service jobs are going away. After all, if we don’t need schools, we don’t need as many teachers. And if we don’t need bookstores or libraries, we certainly don’t need employees to staff them. Yet there’s another issue here that may be equally important: If we only interact online there’s going to be little or even no need to ever venture outside. Thus, we may be more connected than ever online and completely disconnected from anything real.


If people really want smart phones and by implication all the technology that lies behind them, that’s great. But what of those whose life experience leads them to value simpler times? Or what of those who would prefer to have a voice in how user information is collected and utilized by corporate or government interests? As a parent, I’m not only worried about kids losing their privacy, about cyber bullying, or about kids who spend too much of their time playing games and the like, I’m worried what all these changes mean about being and remaining human. If I were talking about a drug, I can easily envision people expressing more concern or outrage. Yet because smart phones represent new technology and we automatically view technology as cool or an improvement to an old way of doing things, no one seems the least concerned we’re becoming addicted, or that all our old ways of doing things are being disrupted. I think it’s high past time we should.


Got an opinion? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

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