The smartphone has, arguably, been one of the most impactful innovations in the 21st century. The role it plays in shaping our lives and how we interact with one another cannot be overstated. If our smartphones stopped working, what then? Considering the faith that we put in mobile apps, if they fail us, will our lives ever be the same again?
Last year, messaging giant WhatsApp announced that it will cease supporting smartphones running on older operating systems. That resulted in a ruckus of epic proportions — it seemed like every major online news and tech channel reported on it! Considering that this little ‘exercise’ by WhatsApp will purportedly affect tens of millions of users around the world, it will no doubt play into the doom and gloom scenario.
More recently, we actually got a glimpse of what life would be like should we lose access our precious apps. In early October last year, social media behemoth Facebook had a brief but significant outage — it went offline for over five hours! For those not in the know, Facebook also happens to own Instagram as well as WhatsApp. So for those who live their lives on these apps, those five hours must have felt like an eternity.
LIFE SANS APPS
It is no wonder that the richest people on our planet are the ones running tech firms. And that just goes to show the level of reliance most have on their smartphones and the apps on them. From scrolling through Instagram, chatting on Snapchats to watching videos on YouTube and movies on Netflix, there’s practically nothing you cannot do on your phone! And with the COVID-19 pandemic, people have relied on online delivery services, such as Grab and Lalamove, to order food and groceries. Shopping for other services and goods is as easy as going onto Shopee or Lazada. Everything relevant for living and communicating is right there on your smartphone.
So just imagine the earlier scenario, when our sacred apps suddenly go offline for a few hours, or — god forbid — our phones become obsolete and we cannot access our favourite apps anymore. Problems will then start to arise, as everyone in our society, whose lives were practically built around online living, will start to struggle. Those who rely on technology to interact and communicate with others will be greeted by silence, albeit for a few hours, but enough to cause anxiety and psychological effects. There’s even a term for that: nomophobia- which simply translates to “no mobile phone phobia”, a fear of being detached from mobile phone connectivity. And this seems to be a growing psychological phenomenon. It may be mild for some, but for others who literally are living their lives through their phones, it could develop into something more severe —surely something to worry about.
Technology has been a saving grace for many during the early coronavirus lockdowns. They have allowed people who were isolated to communicate, share, reach out, and even work with others remotely.
THE PRICE OF ADDICTION
However, the downside of over-reliance is addiction. That’s right, smartphone addiction. You may not believe it yourself, but can you go a few minutes without looking at your phone? You may find yourself preoccupied with your smartphone while doing important tasks or even while on the toilet; or feeling a sense of displacement and loss if your apps are not working or online; or even a sense of dread if you realised youhad left home without your phone. These are just some of the ever-growing symptoms associated with overusing and increased screen time on our smartphones.
In fact, distracted driving has become one of the major causes of road accidents in Singapore. Drivers too caught up with life on their phones are fast becoming a liability on our roads. A Samsung commissioned survey featured in TODAY news, showed that a majority of drivers here admit that they use their mobile phones without a hands-free kit while driving. Even if you are confident in your ability to multitask, the consequences of juggling a phone and the wheel are just too risky. Your attention should be unequivocally on the roads.
So what then do we do? Our smartphones are really useful and the smart apps assist us greatly in our daily lives but we have to learn to live with technology and not rely on it entirely. Worldwide outages or app updates that alienate are always going to happen. We have to remember that an accident can easily render an entire system useless. We don’t want to have to stop living if that happens; surely our lives are more than just a couple of apps?
Here are some useful tips to deal with smartphone addiction
- Use a phone usage tracker to record your phone usage and set limits to restrict yourself each day. Reward yourself at the end of the day if you manage to achieve your goal.
- If you need to be productive at work or are with friends and family, switch off your phone so you will not be distracted. Likewise, if you are driving, switch off your phone and keep your focus on the roads.
- For a disrupt-free sleep, reach for a book or listen to soothing music before going to bed instead of checking on your social media channels.
- Adopt healthy habits, such as working out or practising relaxation techniques, instead of spending time on the Internet. This will help you cope with erratic moods commonly displayed by smartphone addicts.
- Have a good chat over the phone or meet up in person (in accordance with the latest COVID-19 Safe Management Measures) with friends or family to strengthen relationships organically.
- Check out our article on how to tame your social media habit.