by Drew Steinberg, CDAE Public Communication major at the University of Vermont.
While some view our advances in smartphone technology as only having upsides or benefits, there are many studies and experiments being done that would say otherwise. Sure, handheld devices are becoming more and more useful every day. They keep us in contact with people on the other side of the world, update us on the daily news and weather, and even allow us to capture moments forever. However, smartphones are also rewiring our brains and how they operate which in most cases, is looked upon negatively. Most smart device users are not even aware of this, which is the most dangerous part. Smartphones have created the ‘Constant Checker’ phenomenon, where people literally cannot stop checking their device. So why is this an issue? Why care about something that we do not even know is happening? That is exactly why. Because you don’t even know it’s happening to you.
‘Constant Checkers’ experience higher levels of stress than average people. Since they feel the need to check their texts, emails and social media accounts constantly, there is more pressure on them during the day. It takes away from time that could be spent doing work, studying or interacting with people in person. As a result, ‘real life’ suffers because people can’t get their heads out of the digital fields. They spend too much time checking their devices, or thinking about checking them, that it hurts the rest of their life. Stress then builds up from not being able to check, or from work and school not being performed as they should. Another growing issue is how technology and social media change daily. Since parents are less in the social media scene as their children, it is hard for them to keep up. Since social media drastically changes all the time, it makes it even harder. This leads to parents having a hard time managing their children’s technology. This generation of parents don’t understand why their kids have to ‘check’ so often. To the kids, it’s an easy answer, “because we have to. We have to stay informed and know what is going on.” Since parents can’t grasp this concept, it creates gaps between families. Lastly, ‘constant checkers’ can’t stop. They can’t stop because they either don’t have the self-control, or don’t realize that they ‘check’ too much and need to stop. Both of these are equally disturbing.
The American Psychological Association ran a survey to track stress levels for ‘constant checkers’ and people who don’t. The survey found that ‘constant checkers’ on average have higher levels of stress than those who use technology less often. On a 10-point scale, 1 being no stress and 10 being completely overwhelmed, ‘constant checkers’ average was a 5.3, while people who don’t use technology as much averaged around 4.4. According to Bloomberg, 7% of adults used social media in 2005 and in 2015 that number climbed to 65%. For people ages 18-29, the increase was 12% to 90%, and will continue to grow. What will happen when everyone is hooked? The MIT Review found that 45% of parents say they feel disconnected from their families. This disconnect was most prevalent when family members were sitting in the same room together. These numbers and findings are startling because of how much damage they’ve caused so far in such a small amount of time, and because their future is unpredictable. It’s time to admit we have a huge problem.