I have been a smartphone user for three years. I started off with an HTC Desire, because all my techy friends said that Android was the way to go, and I had never seen myself as a Mac person. But in March I made a considered switch to iPhone, with the 5. It is a truly brilliant phone and it has changed my life (well, that may be hyperbole). The camera is superb, and I love apps like Runkeeper, Instagram and Camera+. And by purchasing data bundles, you can even use mobile data in Europe without racking up big bills.
But this week, on day 3 of my holiday in the Algarve, my iPhone stopped working. It wouldn’t charge. It wasn’t the cable. So I am phoneless until Sunday, possibly longer. I feel bereft. I didn’t realize just how much I was using the phone, checking on social media and taking pictures of everything.
Going without my phone has made me realize how dependent on it I was. On one level, it has become genuinely useful and functional – it helps me do my job. But on another, I have become worried that I was using it too much.
Do smartphones make us unhappy? Are they bad for our souls?
Are we spending too much time on our smartphones, to the point that they obstruct us in our daily lives? Are they addictive? Does that little dopamine hit when we receive a new message, or are engaged on social media, keep us coming back for more, without any attendant pleasure?
I think social media is brilliant, but I also think it can be addictive. Smartphones facilitate social media addiction. I do think that having too much dependence on our phones can cause unhappiness and can be bad for our souls. But the answer to mis-use is not dis-use, but correct use. It’s like drinking. It’s nice to have a drink, but alcoholism is destructive and terribly sad. So drinking needs to have safe boundaries. Social media and smartphone use needs to have boundaries, too, if they are not to get in the way of our real relationships and end up becoming another bad habit that makes us sad, but which we can’t kick. Social media can encourage living in a fantasy world where we project our best sides to the world, and end up becoming dissatisfied with the reality of our daily lives. Real relationships involve people, and people have people stuff. In social media, we edit out the people stuff – the mess, the brokenness, the sore spots, the boring bits, the responsibilities.
Having said all this, I CANNOT WAIT to get my iPhone working again. I love it SO MUCH!