Smart­phones have dumbed us down

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Pa­tri­aKaye Aarons Pa­tria-Kaye Aarons is a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and con­fec­tioner. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ andfind­pa­tria@ya­, or tweet @find­pa­tria.

ISPENT my early work­ing years in the cus­tomer care depart­ment of a mo­bile phone com­pany. I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber a call I re­ceived from a man who had pur­chase his very first cell phone. He wanted to re­turn the de­vice be­cause he was sure it was faulty. Ac­cord­ing to him, from the day he got the phone, it hadn’t stopped “trem­bling like say it had fits. And that cyan nor­mal”.

Back then, some 15 years ago, the call was hi­lar­i­ous to me. How­ever, in hind­sight, I say, big up to that man. He ap­plied sound logic to the use of his smart­phone. Any­thing that vi­brated in his world at the time was mal­func­tion­ing, and so he as­sumed that a vi­brat­ing phone was near­ing the end of its use­ful life. He was a think­ing man.

To­day, those of us who use the phone aren’t quite as clever. By some strange witch­craft, when we get our first phones, we can no longer do sim­ple math. My grandma used to hand cashiers ex­act change in stores well be­fore she was told her bill, be­cause she men­tally added up her to­tal as she shopped. There is no way I can do that to­day. I can barely cal­cu­late my change.

I also can no longer spell. Or I have to type the word on my phone screen to see if it looks right. Auto-cor­rect is one of the best things that’s ever hap­pened to me. It’s right up there with see­ing Pres­i­dent Obama, and bread. Sure, it’s a lit­tle in­con­ve­nient when I want to curse in a text and the phone keeps as­sum­ing I mean ‘duck’ or ‘ship’. And don’t get me started on how it in­ter­prets my at­tempts to type Pa­tois. But out­side of that, it has saved me from some most em­bar­rass­ing tweets with spell­ing that would put my Cam­pion ed­u­ca­tion and master’s de­gree to shame.

Phones may help us spell, but they’ve also ru­ined our vo­cab­u­lary. My mummy got Face­book on her cell. Mercy. Of late, she’s been telling me she’s “friendly” with var­i­ous per­sons. It makes per­fect sense to her. If some­body ‘friends’ you on Face­book, the nat­u­ral con­ju­ga­tion of the Face­book verb ‘to friends’ means you and the per­son are now ‘friendly’.

I’m also sure cell phones have com­pro­mised our emo­tions. When last have you typed LOL and ac­tu­ally laughed out loud? I’ve watched hu­mans sit zom­bie-faced typ­ing away, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.” Worst, I’ve seen were friends sit­ting side by side and one says to the other, ‘hugs’. Ah­hhh, why don’t you just ac­tu­ally hug?!


The need to com­mu­ni­cate is so ur­gent that peo­ple walk and text. Worse, peo­ple drive and text. Dumb.

Ity and Fancy Cat did a sketch on TV Sun­day night. It fea­tured a com­mon as­sault in Ja­maica. An ac­ci­dent hap­pened and some­one took out their cell phone not to call for help but to record the hor­ror. I’m con­vinced that smart­phone cam­eras ac­ti­vate per­haps the dumb­est parts of us. When did tak­ing pic­tures of our din­ner plates be­come a thing? If we still had to take that pic­ture on a roll of Ko­dak film, and pay to de­velop it, we would never start this lu­nacy.

As a jour­nal­ist, I un­der­stand the in­stinct to cap­ture the mo­ment for oth­ers to see it. How­ever, we tek it too far, Rasta. Ev­ery­body tun pa­parazzi.

I re­mem­ber be­ing at a con­cert in MoBay last year, and the wel­com­ing ap­plause for the acts was far less rous­ing than the au­di­ence was ca­pa­ble of. Why? Peo­ple’s hands were oc­cu­pied. They were busier tak­ing pic­tures of the per­form­ers than wel­com­ing them to the stage. Mi did feel a way. (Ev­ery real Ja­maican un­der­stands that turn of phrase). My in­ner voice was shout­ing, “Put down your phones and clap the peo­ple.” I’ve seen the same thing hap­pen to world lead­ers, busi­ness moguls and su­per­stars.

I went to see co­me­dian Aziz An­sari in Chicago. (I find the man down­right hi­lar­i­ous.) Know­ing full well just how dis­tract­ing the cam­era is, Aziz ac­tu­ally has a photo-op mo­ment built into the start of his set. He in­structs the au­di­ence to take out their cam­eras and he ded­i­cates a whole five min­utes to them tak­ing self­ies and pic­tures of him. He then tells them to put the phones away and en­joy the show.

Maybe smart­phones aren’t for ev­ery­body. We’ve grown overly de­pen­dent of these tiny de­vices and they’ve af­fected our brains and hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. Clearly, the pos­i­tives they bring to our lives are many, but per­haps in the fu­ture, like a gun, some should test for a li­cence to carry them.

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