Home Politics Culture The Smartphone: Addiction, Obsession, or Both?

The Smartphone: Addiction, Obsession, or Both?

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Photo by Lord Jim, Creative Commons Licensing.

Recently, I was brought into the 21st century when my day job employer issued me a smartphone. I should add, I did so kicking and screaming. I wanted nothing to do with the thing. I was happy with my little flip phone.

But my employer insisted. Now I am the not-so-proud owner of a thin, black, plastic brick with a pretty, flat screen.

Damn.

I see the things everywhere now. Heck, I was seeing them all over the place before my reluctant conversion. People were fixated on their phones; heads down, thumbs flittering across those little flat screens.

They do this while sitting in restaurants, shopping in stores, in the bank, and at work as well. It gets even scarier when I see people contemplating their electronic device while walking on the sidewalks, riding bicycles, skateboards, and — scariest of of all — driving their cars.

It’s a serious death-wish I see everyday on our busy roads in the Valley and it scares the willies out of me.

The last one really burns me up.

Some studies have suggested that texting and driving now exceeds the death rates caused by drunk driving accidents. It’s called “Distracted Driving” by the experts and has become a nation wide killer.

Yet, many people don’t get that message as they get into their half-ton cage of metal, rubber, and plastic to zip off down the road at highway speeds — all the while texting Billy Bob or Mary Jane about useless things like the size of man hair-buns or a frowning cat on the internet.

And, the next thing they know, that person T-bones another car in the intersection because they failed to stop at that annoying red light they never noticed. All because they were looking at a device and not the road ahead.

Can those who take part in this stupidity do me a favor? Stop.

No, really, just stop. Put the damn thing down and pay attention to the road in front of you. No life is worth a text or a call. Get a call? Pull over safely and take it. Get a text? Ignore it until your drive is over or until you can get off the road and go all thumbs out of traffic and away from drivers like me who just want to get from point A to point B alive.

Texting and driving kills, don’t become a part of that deadly — and completely avoidable — trend.

Many pour their entire lives into what is essentially a handheld computer. They play games, social media, apps, and engage in late night tweets like an addiction. According to some, this obsession is just that. It could be one that is designed on purpose by the manufacturers of the devices themselves. There is even a term for it: “brain hacking.”

In an interview on 60 Minutes, Tristan Harris, a former product manager for Google, talks to Anderson Cooper about the lure of the devices. He says it’s no accident — it’s by design by Silicon Valley techs. The segment aired this past Sunday night. He equates the allure of these things to slot machines. How is a cell phone like a slot machine?

According to Tristan it is like this: “Well, every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, ‘What did I get?’ This is one way to hijack people’s minds and create a habit, to form a habit. What you do is, you make it so when someone pulls a lever, sometimes they get a reward. An exciting reward. And it turns it turns out that this design technique can be embedded inside all of these products.”

It was a very interesting interview to say the least. There is more to it. I suggest you check the transcripts and video at the 60 Minutes website.

Maybe this is why smartphones have never appealed to me. I detest gambling about as much as the way I feel about smart phones. I only use mine for taking and making phone calls and rarely use the other features. I have only texted a handful of times.

I admit that, during a recent family medical crisis, it was a powerful tool that helped us find the proper places and treatment for those in my family who were affected by illness. So, smartphones obviously have their uses.

I just make sure they remain in their place. I prefer the conversation of real people and not the cold letters of a text.

I will continue to use my desktop Mac for my writing needs and for my social media that keeps me in touch with so many. It is my way to stay in contact with the world outside of Alaska. My way to express those feelings and issues in this column from my humble home.

But, I will not let this machine to take over my entire life as so many have with their smartphones and other devices.

There is life beyond that pretty, black, flat screen one holds in the palm of their hand. Put it down for a spell and check out what’s happening around you. It’s break up and the land is awakening at last. Take in the wonder of it all.

And please, please, don’t text and drive.

Stay safe. Stay alive.

Daniel D. Grota
Daniel D. Grota retired from the U.S. Army after twenty one years of service.He is a radio personality on KVRF 89.5 Radio Free Palmer and a former columnist for the Mat-Su Frontiersman.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article. Bugbean has developed an Android only app called AntiSocial which help’s users control and track their phone usage. A great app to slowly reduce the time spent on social media by using the 3 blocking modes available. Highly recommend downloading AntiSocial and taking the 2 week challenge.

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