“Not So Smart” Smartphone Implications

by Vicki on October 28, 2011

Smartphones have been at the forefront of my mind lately as Apple began selling their newest iPhone.

The social psychologist in me has often thought about the relationship people (me included!) have with their smartphones –

  • We take them everywhere (How many of you sleep with your phone on your nightstand? Or check them in the night?)
  • Choose to focus on them more than critically important tasks at hand (i.e., driving, walking in busy areas)
  • Use them to “connect” but often their usage leads to immediate disconnection with those in our immediate vicinity  (if you are interested in this topic, Trudy wrote about our unhealthy relationships with technology in a previous post)

If I pause to compare the relationship many of us have with our smartphones to any other relationship, the relationship would be deemed unhealthy – characterized by addictive tendencies, compulsions, single-minded focus, etc. Seriously unhealthy.

TEDTalks has a 3-minute, funny (I snorted out loud a handful of times) but completely relevant talk by social strategist Renny Gleeson where he breaks down our always-on social world — where the experience we’re having right now is less interesting than what we’ll tweet about it later.

There are many points Renny makes that resonate deeply with day-to-day interactions. I especially like the graph he displays at 0:59 seconds where he charts “acceptable mobile device usage” against “egregious furtive mobile device usage”.

But the piece that hits home the hardest for me is when he talks about how our usage of smartphones affects other humans, what it communicates to them about their worth –

And when you’re standing with someone, and you’re on your mobile device, effectively what you’re saying to them is, “You are not as important as, literally, almost anything that could come to me through this device.”

Wow. Pretty straightforward. Pretty harsh.

Have three minutes to spare? Check out Renny’s talk.

You probably won’t look at your smartphone any differently, but it will probably make you think about the messages (intentional or otherwise) you are sending out to others when you use it.

Note: There is one slide in his presentation that may not be appropriate for a workplace environment (there is a profane word in the text of the slide). If you are watching this at work, you can avoid this slide by forwarding through 1:56 to 2:14.

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