The other day I was walking down a busy Manhattan street. Sidewalks were bustling with activity and were filled with people from just about every demographic imaginable. It was a typical summer Saturday afternoon in New York. Several strides ahead of me, I see a 20-something guy with his face buried deep in his phone, walk directly into a crosswalk, into a red light and into moving cars, without lifting his head, probably without even blinking, and obviously without thinking about anything but his texting. Fortunately the cars saw him and were able to slam on their brakes and avert what may have been a terrible accident. The young guy looked unfazed by this and went on his merry way, continuing his texting. I thought to myself, have we become that numb to the world around us? So self absorbed that we forget the very basic rules of safety that most people learned at a very young age? Have smartphones made us that dumb? Sadly, they have.
While there's no doubt that smartphone have made life easier by affording many conveniences and instant access to the world, it has effectively also made us more reliant on machine and less reliant on our own brain power. I'm in no way suggesting people should part with their smartphones. I am suggesting that people become more aware of how they might be hurting, rather than helping, their brains and looking at ways to strike a balance between smartphone use and smartphone reliance.
Here's how smartphones are making us dumber:
- People forget how to talk. So often when I'm at social or professional events I look around and see people buried in their phones. If there are 100 people at a gathering I'd estimate one-quarter of them are texting or using their phone. Have they forgotten how to talk? Maybe. Are they too anxious to talk? Perhaps. Phones have become a pacifier of sorts, a security blanket, and a source of comfort to many. While at social and professional events, let's get back to good old fashioned communication and have a conversation, sans phone.
So be smart about your smartphone use. See the phone for what it is: a tool for communication and for information. It doesn't define you, make you more appealing to others, nor should it rule your life.
Have a period of no phone use and turn it off at night. Give it a break when you're giving yourself a rest. Prioritize people and real life human interactions over that of phones. There's an element of communication that simply isn't captured when using texting. Emotion is often missed, overlooked, or even miscommunicated. When possible, pick up the phone, and get back to that lost art of communication: talking.
Perhaps most important, don't let your desire to send or snap a picture or a text prevent you from enjoying a priceless moment in time that can only be captured with your naked eye in the moment.
For more tips and insight on how to lead a fulfilling and happy life check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.