Sample Technology Essay: The Culture of Smartphone Dependence Within the Last Decade
Smartphones play a significant role in modern society. The integration of mobility and utility within a small device has allowed individuals to communicate efficiently, store information easily, and accomplish tasks remotely. However, the convenience the technology provides has created a culture of smartphone dependence. Individuals, especially younger age groups, have developed an overreliance on smartphones to the extent that it affects their mental health. This raises questions and issues regarding the benefits and disadvantages of a smartphone-dependent culture. Since smartphones are relatively new technologies, more research is necessary to identify if the smartphone-dependent culture is part of the social change process or an issue that society must address.
Use of Smartphones
The culture of smartphone dependence developed because of smartphones’ utility. Individuals can use smartphones for a variety of reasons, making ownership of one a great advantage. One of the most prominent uses of smartphones is communication, which is true mostly for individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 (Gladden, 2018). Since anyone with a smartphone can text or call someone else’s phone, long-distance communication became easier. Its wireless feature made it a better alternative to computers and telephones. Furthermore, with the prominent use of the Internet in modern society, communication through smartphones has become more advanced and convenient.
Aside from communication, smartphones allow individuals to transact remotely. Individuals can use smartphone applications to order anything online, from food deliveries to hotel reservations to paying bills (Thompson & Thompson, 2017; Gladden, 2018). This made smartphones more than just communication devices since application technology expanded their use. Even within businesses, smartphones have helped improve productivity (Business Phone Systems, n.d.). Consumers can contact customer service remotely as well as gather information about a business using smartphone applications. Other businesses even design their strategies based on smartphones, such as strong social media marketing and developing mobile applications. Since these provide individuals with the ability to quickly and effortlessly complete transactions, reliance on smartphones increased as it allows them to save time and energy.
How Society Perceives Smartphone Use
The prominence of a smartphone-dependent culture comes from the perspective of its members. Since the culture is dependent on smartphones, there should be a consensus that smartphone use is beneficial or addictive. Silver et al. (2019) conducted a survey in 11 countries to identify how each region perceives mobile phones. The study found that most countries have a mostly positive perspective on mobile phones except for their time-saving capability. Many agree that while smartphones are beneficial, they often find themselves wasting time on them. For instance, they may spend a lot of time browsing social media instead of doing something productive. Still, the majority in each country have agreed that mobile phones and smartphones provide personal benefits. This aligns with the communication and other utility use of the devices. It is important to note that the respondents are referring to personal impact since their reaction to smartphones’ societal impact differs.
Many individuals are concerned about the health effects of smartphone use and dependency, especially on children. For instance, the youth’s mental health is a significant issue and many participants agree that smartphone dependency and addiction contribute to health issues (Silver et al., 2019). There are also concerns regarding smartphone use and exposure to inappropriate content (Silver et al., 2019). As mentioned, smartphones are more than just communication tools and with various applications, children may gain access to content that is inappropriate for them. This further contributes to the negative perception of smartphones’ societal impact.
Problems in a Smartphone-Dependent Culture
The negative perception of smartphones’ societal impact is not without merit. Various studies have shown that overreliance on smartphones, along with related factors like social media and the Internet, can lead to mental issues. According to Merlo (n.d.), smartphone users tend to develop an aversion to social interactions and a lack of environmental awareness (cited in A Culture of Smartphone, 2017). Since smartphone users rely on their devices to interact with the world, they fail to develop social skills and awareness. For instance, a teenager may prefer to interact with their friends on social media rather than go out and spend time with them. Furthermore, the lack of environmental awareness stems from excessive device use. Users may be too focused on their devices and may ignore the events happening around them. This can be dangerous in many situations, especially if they are using their smartphones while walking on the street.
Smartphone users can also exhibit problematic behaviors when they do not have access to their devices. Studies have found that users can immediately feel bored when they cannot use their phones while others feel that they cannot live without their devices (A Culture of Smartphone, 2017; Silver et al., 2019). This creates an addiction-like behavior where individuals are preoccupied with smartphone use. In some cases, especially in children, they may exhibit withdrawal-like behaviors when parents remove their access to smartphones. While parents can opt to limit their children’s access to smartphones early and avoid the development of behavioral issues, it can be difficult in an already smartphone-dependent culture. Some parents are using smartphones and devices to distract their children when they are busy, leading to an early introduction to the devices.
Lastly, there is the overreliance on smartphones for various aspects of life. Since smartphones allow remote transactions, communications, and other utilities, users develop a reliance on these devices. According to Gladden (2018), as smartphones provide more utility, their negative social impacts increase. This is because individuals will rely on more convenient alternatives. Instead of driving to the supermarket to purchase goods, users can instead use delivery applications and services. Instead of meeting friends in real life, some may prefer to build online relationships which opens them to various risks and issues. This further increases the risk of developing unhealthy behaviors, such as narcissistic behaviors related to social media image , as users rely on smartphones and applications to define various aspects of their lives.
Smartphone Dependency and Social Change
While the negative effects imply that smartphone dependency is a crisis, one can also argue that it is part of social change. Thompson & Thompson (2017) noted that technological advancements have historically received negative criticism during their early stages. For instance, the public disliked the emergence of automobiles for their loud noises and influence on student behaviors. The public blamed automobiles for the decline in moral standards and branded the invention as undemocratic (Maynard, 2011). A closer example is the reception of the telephone where rumors of electric shock-related injuries and deaths spread (Thompson & Thompson, 2017). These events showcase that society has the habit of antagonizing or vilifying innovations that can significantly change social norms.
A smartphone-dependent culture contradicts traditional norms as communication becomes impersonal and everything is available online. Furthermore, Thompson & Thompson (2017) stated that younger users primarily use smartphones to access the Internet and social media platforms than for communication. This means that a smartphone-dependent culture is more than relying on the device for utility but an extension of traditional society. Individuals perceive their smartphones as a medium to access a digital society where “likes”, “follows”, and “shares” are valuable. However, earlier generations may not understand this change, similar to how older generations did not understand the benefits of automobiles and telephones. Therefore, the smartphone-dependent culture faces criticism. Still, it is important to acknowledge its negative effects to assess if the social change that comes from this culture is beneficial or disadvantageous.
The smartphone-dependent culture present within the last decade implies a subtle social change within modern society. The benefits that smartphones provide to daily living made them useful devices. However, their negative effects on health raise questions regarding the potential crisis that a smartphone-dependent culture may create. Some argue that allowing smartphone dependency to continue is detrimental to societal growth and the welfare of the next generation. Alternatively, others claim that social change is currently in motion and the criticism towards smartphone dependency is a part of the process. Since smartphone technology is continuously evolving and expanding to various aspects of life, it can be difficult to assess whether smartphone dependency is a crisis or beneficial social change. Therefore, society as a whole must take note of the effects of a smartphone-dependent culture and act accordingly to the changes it creates.
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Lapierre, M., Zhao, P., & Custer, B. (2019). Short-Term Longitudinal Relationships Between Smartphone Use/Dependency and Psychological Well-Being Among Late Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, vol 65(5). Available at https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(19)30337-4/fulltext. Accessed: November 16, 2022.
Maynard, W. (2011). Invasion of the Devil Wagon. Princeton Alumni Weekly. Available at https://paw.princeton.edu/article/invasion-devil-wagon. Accessed: November 17, 2022.
Silver, L., Smith, A., Johnson, C., Jiang, J., Anderson, M., & Rainie, L. (2019). Majorities Say Mobile Phones are Good for Society, Even Amid Concerns About their Impact on Children. Pew Research Center. Available at https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/03/07/majorities-say-mobile-phones-are-good-for-society-even-amid-concerns-about-their-impact-on-children/. November 16, 2022.
Thompson, W. & Thompson, M. (2017). Smartphones: Addiction or Way of Life? Journal of Ideology, vol 38(1). Available at https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=ji . Accessed: November 16, 2022.