Is your smart phone making you dumb?

Okay, let me start by saying that I might be the only person working in advertising who is yet to surrender to the iPhone phenomenon. Looking around the office and the hardware that people sit on the tables at meetings, these gadgets are everywhere. And it seems those few who aren’t in bed with Steve Jobs have an Android version.

On a daily basis, I listen to people talk about how much fun they have with the latest app they’ve downloaded. Wherever they are in the office, they receive the all-staff email about the leftover, free muffins in the kitchen. When any dispute or question arises, they pull out their trusty gadget and have the answer within a few taps. They’re probably the kings of Trivia Night at their local pubs.

But not me. Why? Why do I resist this temptation and put up with jibes like ‘Hey, nice Motorola V3. Is that similar to the one Gordon Gecko had in Wall Street?’

Well, firstly I just don’t think the iPhone works as a phone that well – at least not yet, anyway. All the other functions seem to work fine, but try and call somebody to actually speak with them, and all bets are off.

But my laggard ways to adopt a smart phone run deeper. I actually suspect that these devices may be removing people’s ability to think – much like calculators have replaced my Art Director’s ability to do long division.

Think about it (no pun intended). These days we’re conditioning a society where you don’t actually have to know anything apart from how to open a browser and do a search. You don’t even have to know how to spell what it is you’re searching for – the search engine will understand what you mean and make any necessary adjustments.

If you don’t believe me, simply try it for yourself. I just Googled “how to cross a raod” (sic) and 361,000,000 answers were delivered to me in 0.15 of a second. That’s even faster than Usain Bolt could cross the road (providing he had Googled it earlier).

In this age of immediate access to information, we’re also breeding impatience. Once upon a time if you wanted to know the answer to something, you dragged your arse to the library and looked it up. These days, if our Internet connection is a bit slow and takes, heaven forbid, 5 seconds to deliver our 361 million answers, there’s usually swearing involved.

Look, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. I’m not the main character from The Mosquito Coast. I’m not against the Internet and all the information it makes accessible. It’s great. I just think we have to be conscious of being plugged into all that information constantly. There are plenty of benefits to carrying a smart phone, but you should also consider the cost (and no, I’m not talking about when you exceed the data allowance on your cap plan).

Even good things need balance. Take water – it’s essential for life, but have enough of it, and it can kill you.

So, along with our newfound fondness of instant gratification (lack of patience), let me ask you this: when’s the last time you looked out the bus window and just pondered? Or sat in a park or shopping centre and just watched all the people pass by? When’s the last time you simply sat down and thought about a problem to arrive at your own solution, rather than looking up someone else’s?

The truth is that you need downtime. You need the freedom to think. So unplug yourself, at least for a little while each day, because your dreams and ideas will never happen unless you give them an environment to live in.

And if you still don’t believe me, well, look up ‘Daydream’ on Wikipedia.

2 responses to “Is your smart phone making you dumb?

  1. case in point seen on bus this morning.

    A woman places the mouthpiece to her ear to listen, instead of the speaker:

  2. You are not the last. I, too, have not fallen into the trap. One of the many things that amaze me about this fixation is that people don’t think twice these days about shelling out a couple of hundred a month for phone & data plans for their whole family. That’s a car payment! Corporate America finally discovered how to sell people their own time and air!

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