Our smart phones are mak­ing dumb peo­ple

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS - JOHN MASTERSON

AD­DIC­TION takes many forms. For some peo­ple it in­volves putting a nee­dle into their arm, and most of us can­not imag­ine do­ing that. For oth­ers it in­volves al­co­hol, or gam­bling, which most of us can more eas­ily un­der­stand. We are more likely to have seen those up close.

We have all met peo­ple who can­not sur­vive without cig­a­rettes. We see peo­ple who can­not seem to stop eat­ing de­spite what it does to their health. And peo­ple who con­trol their food in­take rig­or­ously with many fea­tures of ad­dic­tive be­hav­iour.

New ad­dic­tions are dreamt up all the time. Un­til re­cently most of us would not have paid much at­ten­tion to the no­tion of be­ing a sex ad­dict. Be­ing a Hol­ly­wood star and mega rich seem to be en­try level re­quire­ments so it will not trou­ble most of us un­duly. I am around long enough to re­mem­ber peo­ple talk­ing about be­ing ad­dicted to tele­vi­sion. De­spite liv­ing with one chan­nel which be­gan with some­thing like Let’s Draw late in the af­ter­noon and fin­ished with the Na­tional An­them long be­fore mid­night, there were many peo­ple who could not bear to miss a minute of what was on the box. Some were said to watch the Test Card.

There were fears for the art of con­ver­sa­tion since such peo­ple would not tol­er­ate talk­ing dur­ing F Troop or Go­ing Strong with Bunny Carr. So long as there was some­thing flick­er­ing on that screen they were glued to it. Over the years peo­ple grad­u­ally learned to turn the box off. To­day we are faced with mas­sive screens with high def­i­ni­tion and hun­dreds of chan­nels and we still man­age to say there is noth­ing on.

The dire con­se­quences for so­ci­ety as a re­sult of tele­vi­sion ad­dic­tion have not ma­te­ri­alised.

I had a brief en­counter with a sub­sec­tion of tele­vi­sion ad­dic­tion years ago when I took six weeks at home to work on a project. I soon slipped into a rou­tine where I stopped for soup and a sand­wich at the same time each day and caught the News which was fol­lowed by Neigh­bours. It took only about a week be­fore I was to­tally en­gaged with the peo­ple of Ram­say Street and what Harold Bishop was up to. When I fi­nally went back to work I had with­drawal symp­toms. I did cold turkey and have never watched any soaps since.

I have no de­sire to sub­ject my­self to hours of drivel clev­erly de­signed to keep us watch­ing while do­ing us no good what­so­ever.

I quit, but I am not so sure I would have been as suc­cess­ful had I spent those lunchtimes de­vel­op­ing the smart phone ad­dic­tion which is cur­rently ram­pant across all age groups.

The chunks of in­for­ma­tion are smaller. The vis­ual con­tent changes quickly and is some­times in­ter­est­ing. As it be­comes less in­ter­est­ing we search longer.

This is the same way peo­ple get hooked on the one-armed ban­dits. They al­ways win and the phone is do­ing a good job at win­ning.

Every­one I asked told me they knew an ad­dict who spends hours scrolling and scrolling. It is a to­tal waste of time, and seems to be a very hard habit to break. The scroller is off in their own world, obliv­i­ous to peo­ple or things in the vicin­ity.

Tele­vi­sion did not change the world as we knew it. Smart phones might. I rec­om­mend cold turkey.

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