There is a divide among people and it’s becoming larger everyday — those who can’t live without a mobile device and those who do not own one. It’s estimated that approximately 73 percent of the world’s population has access to a mobile device — either a smart phone, cell phone or tablet.
While these devices are our modern day marvels one has to wonder if humanity will be changed for the better as a result of these powerful little gadgets or if they’ll eventually take over our lives and we become slaves to a machine. A new phenomena is spreading called nomophobiacs: No Mobile Phone Phobia. In a recent survey about 66 percent of those questioned suffer from this new phobia, affecting women at a greater rate than men.
Another survey found that 50 percent of those responding feel anxious when they do not have their phone within reach. And it’s no wonder when we think about how many times in the day we reach for them. On average it’s about 34 times a day but another survey reports a higher percentage at once every 10 minutes. When asked which item people would retrieve from a burning house it wasn’t the wallet, purse, passport or family pictures — it was the mobile. While it may seem we are a little too compulsive when it comes to our mobile device, for many among us, the device now encompasses all aspects of personal and business life. Far more important than a wallet or even pictures, all of which can now be contained inside the powerful device.
My concern isn’t the infatuation with the useful tool, I’m more concerned about how they will be used as we move forward. In a recent Nielsen survey, in households owning a tablet and with children under the age of 12, 70 percent of those children use the computer tablet — 77 percent for playing games; 57 percent for educational purposes; 43 percent to watch a movie or TV show and 41 percent to entertain the child while at a restaurant or event. The real concern is, are we turning these devices into high-tech babysitters?
Will the next app be a “Good Parenting” app? Children need to learn valuable interpersonal skills from their parents, not from a computer. I can’t imagine a future were people lack the skills to deal with each other face to face, but we need to recognize that we’re now embracing that future. I saw an interesting piece on the evening news last week regarding a retired dance instructor, who is working with kids in an inner city school, teaching them to dance “ballroom” style, face to face. The kids admit it was very awkward at first, but they’ve grown to enjoy dealing with their peers in this manner. People are real, but the new games available on these devices appear very realistic and that will only improve as we move forward.
Kids are sponges and they’ll get lost in the computer screen if they see parents constantly watching their smart devices when they should be educating their offspring. If personal interaction and dealing with differing opinions is not a learned skill when one is young we may find a generation or two who will be unable to deal with people who they find more difficult to control than their mobile device. Now I must admit, I too am a smart phone user and while I find it a useful tool, I can understand how it can be an addictive habit. At business meetings or luncheons nearly everyone, as soon as they are seated, will pull out a mobile device and set it on the table. What’s’ worse is you’ll go out in the evening for dinner with the wife and see couples not conversing with each other but both looking longingly into their device screen, thumbing away, perhaps even to each other.
I’m all for advancing technology, but I’m just not certain we aren’t on the slippery slope with cute little devices.
You might disagree, but ask yourself these questions and then tell me we aren’t at least starting to slip a little on that slope:
- Have you spent more on accessories than on your mobile unit?
- Do you have over 30 apps installed and use them all?
- Do you have alarms telling you when to do everything in your life?
- Do you read about your phone on your phone?
- Have you cut back on necessities to afford your month mobile bill?
- Have you forgot your mobile and felt withdrawal symptoms all day until you’re reunited?
- Do you meet people who use the same mobile as you, and you can only talk about the device?
- Have you felt that sinking feeling of panic when you touch your pocket/purse and it’s gone?
- It accompanies you to the bathroom?
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.