Smartphones lead to dumb choices

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By DON VOWELL

It is now fairly certain that smartphones are the cause of nearly every problem in America.  That includes financial, driving, educational, workroom, health and social problems.

First things first.  If you are checking your phone you are not multi-tasking, you are checking your phone.  Neuroscientists say there is no multi-tasking—you are quickly switching focus.  The time you lose flitting back and forth is called “switching loss.”

A California State University professor decided to research the study habits of 263 students of varying ages in their own “ideal” study habitats.  This group, fully aware that they were being observed, made only about two minutes on average before stopping to send a text, or use some form of social media.  About 65 percent of their time in total was used to study, and retention was lowered.  Education is not being helped by smartphones.

Not much needs to be said about smartphones and driving.  Everybody reading this has likely had to wait behind a phone user that’s failed to notice the light is now green.  Again, if you are checking your phone you are not driving.

At elementary schools a phone would be confiscated if a student began checking it in class.  I bet most employers would really like to have that policy.  How much wages are paid each day to employees checking Facebook, texting, or tweeting?  I hope surgeons never relax enough to check their phones in mid-operation.

It is no sure thing that people taking a vow to cut their smartphone time by a half an hour each day would then use that time to get some physical exercise.  On the other hand, it is absolutely certain that tapping a screen with your fingers won’t burn many calories.

This is a costly habit.  You can reduce the upfront cost of your smartphone by signing a contract that is truly expensive.  I have felt like I can’t afford one.  More than half of all Americans have them.  Poverty has new parameters if the national poverty level is set at a point that includes smartphone costs.  I am always amazed when I see a baggy-pants, backward cap young man on a skateboard messin’ with his phone.  Who is paying for all of this?

A Piper Jaffray analyst named Gene Munster, emphasizing how important the new Apple phone interface is, said, “Most people check their phones every 10 minutes.” Just because Munster said it doesn’t mean it’s true, but you can find that estimate on the Internet in other places.  Go ahead, use your phone to check it.  If this is true, or even almost true, this is an addiction problem that dwarves all others.  Even heroin addicts can get by with only two or three fixes a day.  No respectable junkie would tell you that he has 535 “friends.”

There is no explanation for writing about this.  Some of you will be nodding your heads, understanding that it is phone envy.  Well, you are right.  If I had a smartphone I would use it all the time to find out stuff I don’t much need to know.  My way of fighting this addiction is to not start.  When I finally do, I’ll tell you how it goes.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)

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