Over-use of iPhones fails to make addicted users any smarter
Undoubtedly, the utility of an iPhone (or any similar electronic device) cannot be denied. People have come to rely upon them; perhaps forgetting that not so many years ago, life proceeded satisfactorily enough without any of them — that is, before they were even invented. That they offer some great conveniences is manifestly the case. However, when bearing in mind their ubiquity, the question may fairly be asked, has their obvious utility encouraged a lot of people, especially young people, to become obsessed with them, using them almost constantly? As English poet William Henry Davies once asked, ’’ What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.’’
For those few luddites among us who are still electronically un-encumbered it is a strange sight to see people perambulating this city’s streets whilst constantly carrying one in the hand, where so ever they go. Can’t a pocket, belt or neck pouch, or handbag hold them, when not actually in use? I recently saw someone transporting a large ironing board under one arm, heavy shopping bags in the other hand and yet, yes, there was the apparently obligatory iPhone also perched in her hand. Why make life more difficult for yourself, in such a way?
Another recently seen example makes a similar point: a young mother was getting out of a taxi with her two toddlers and attempting to extricate and unfold the pram from the vehicle’s boot at the same time. When her iPhone rang during that hectic moment, she did not hesitate to answer it immediately, as though her life depended upon it. Can’t the callers leave a message? Does every text have to be responded to absolutely instantly? People here commonly struggle to send text messages while strap-hanging in the MTR, while getting on a bus, even while walking up or down stairs. They never give themselves a break from being so constantly connected — and was that necessary?
In places where a quiet moment’s thought or reflection might once have occurred, such as on a bus or MTR journey, at a bus stop or bank queue, these days almost everyone is filling that time busily operating a portable electronic device. They do so constantly, even when walking along. That is the cause of many a collision in Hong Kong’s crowded streets and on our busy public transport, as iPhone users and others equally electronically besotted stroll along giving more attention to the device in their hands than they do to moving safely around our teeming city. Other pedestrians are forced to take evasive action. When two or more strollers in crowded places are insensate because of their incessant iPhone use, a collision becomes especially likely.
Such apparent indifference to their surroundings becomes particularly striking, and indeed dangerous, when they became oblivious to the sounds surrounding them because they have wires plugged into their ears. I have several times observed those so attired wander unheedingly into the road, in front of oncoming fast-moving traffic, risking life and limb in the process.
Invest Hong Kong is currently, and very appropriately, promoting Hong Kong as the best connected city in Asia. Few could doubt the veracity of that claim. But when are the people here ever disconnected? When can they ever experience restful downtime?
I happen to live near a university and several schools. In years gone by, students would laugh and play with each other on their way home from their studies. That was an important way for youngsters to build up those vital skills of interacting socially with others, which will one day be needed at the workplace. But most of the youngsters I see nowadays are completely cut off from their peers, since they interact only with the mobile device held a foot in front of their noses, without any respite. They thereby isolate themselves from those around them; and constantly at that.
Hong Kong’s employers, like any others, seek new recruits who can interact effectively with others and who can think independently. Neither of these abilities is granted at birth, as breathing is. Both of these important life skills need to be built up gradually as adulthood approaches. It seems that the current thoughtless preoccupation with playing endless computer games will inhibit future generations from developing such skills during youth, which will likely limit their usefulness — or even employability — in their eventual potential workplaces.
Then there is the self-exclusion from receiving any other input, caused when we see iPhone users besotted with their device during a film, meeting, lunch with colleagues, concert, lecture, country walk, family dinner or even while the television is turned on. They appear to view the world through their iPhones and nothing else could possibly be as important as that!
Sadly, the over-use of smart phones fails to make the addicted user any smarter. As suggested above, it can reduce a young person’s social and mental development and it can also very effectively cut them, and anyone else, off from receiving all other stimuli to independent thought.