Devolution by Smart Phones

Smart phones drag behavior down the hierarchy of human thought. Rather than leading spontaneous lives as creators of novel material, smart phone users are sucked into a system where they are no more than dogs in a Pavlovian experiment.

Observe the next time a phone buzzes as the owner moves instantly hand-to-pocket, rooting for the precious, quickly pulling it out to take the sweet hit of validation from that tagged Facebook post.

Conversations, trains of thought, and presence in the moment are all sacrificed due to this compulsion for instant pleasure. Smart phone users are falling into the trap of being reactive to their tool, instead of having healthy deliberate usage when time allows it.

These notifications from applications are deliberately designed to modify behavior. Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga’s games are programming users to open their app. Each time users open a company’s app, the targeted ads generate revenue for the owner.

This system is akin to the game all children have experienced at one time or another. “Jonathan said something about you, but I am not telling you what it was” forms the compulsive basis to snare the user into immediately opening the application.

It is not even a decision; the user does not consider what they forfeit by being distracted by the phone. They check their phone like a good robot.

The interruption-driven communication that is created by these smart phone notifications hampers our ability to work productively. Dr. Marshall Van

Alstyne, a visiting professor at MIT, recently published work in the MIT Sloan Management Review regarding the is- sue of interruptions and productivity. Van Alstyne concluded that constantly allowing interruptions decreases productivity about the same as pulling an all-nighter prior to working.

Productivity is not the only aspect of life affected by the interruptions created by smart phones. Pulling out a phone and checking the most recent notification is a blatant sign to those nearby that “I value this artificial inter- action more than I value the real inter- action I could be having with you.”

It is hard to imagine a situation where “@Aspringer SWAG YOLO” should be valued over learning some- thing new about a person close by.

Break out of the smart phone Skinner box! Disable the notifications that apps are allowed to send through the settings menu on iOS and Android. Al- low yourself to be present in the moment rather than some bastardized hybrid of broken human spirit and technological “progress.”

Deliberate usage of smart phones can facilitate important connections between people, but it seems that far too often we are sacrificing and salivating at the first buzz.

Aaron is a Senior Computer Science major. He enjoys movement, one-on-one conversations, and not having surgery.

Aaron Springer, Contributing Writer


Categories: Opinion

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