A word or two about the word of the year
The Cambridge Dictionary, that venerable guardian of our rich and nimble English language, has announced the word of the year for 2018 — “Nomophobia”.
A new one to most people, it is undeniably the most fitting and proper term to describe the one phenomenon that is inescapable in the modern world we have created for ourselves. As the dictionary defines it, nomophobia means “a fear or worry of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it.” Panic and stress have also been used to describe it. Parsed out it’s: NO + MObilephone + phobia, or fear.
One only has to walk down any street or avenue in New York City — or I’d wager any other city in the world — to see that human beings have, without any clinical procedure or alchemy, become surgically attached to their smartphones.
I remember reading all the futuristic, dystopian, sci-fi stories from decades ago predicting a world where Big Brother would be watching you constantly, for your own good, came the sinister irony. The mechanisms were some obligatory device or technology required to be part of your daily life, and draconically enforced.
Fast forward to today and the devices are not only thousands of times more powerful than any writer could have envisioned back then, but users happily pay for it all. No need for enforcement. We’re all broadcasting our minute-to-minute lives for the world to see.
Scientists at the City University of Hong Kong and the Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul describe smartphones that have become so smart and responsive to users that they are actually extensions of the person’s self.
“As smartphones evoke more personal memories, users extend more of their identity onto their smartphones,” reads the study, which appeared in Cyberspychology, Behavior and Social Networking, a journal whose very existence is proof that something major is going on here.
It’s no secret that smartphone addiction is not becoming a problem but already is a major one. But now studies are finding that the habit can cause imbalances in the brain that lead to fatigue, anxiety and worse.
The hypnotic little devices shift the critical ratios of neurotransmitters that keep the brain firing on all cylinders. The healthy and sane processing of emotions can also be affected, and that is obviously fertile soil for all kinds of woes.
“Users should be conscious not to become overly dependent on smartphones while benefitting from the smartness of the technology,” the study’s authors advise.
Now you tell me! That genie’s already well out of the bottle.
Researchers at the University of Texas found that simply having your smartphone nearby — comforted by the universe of connectivity, information and amusements at your fingertips — can shift your brainpower to low gear.
It’s obvious where all this is heading. The smarter your smartphone gets, the dumber the user gets. So it’s only a matter of time before the innovative geniuses at Apple and Nokia and Huawei, once they’ve hit the wall with smartphones, turn their mental might on creating a whole new breed of gadgets: dumbphones — the personal device that makes you smarter, even when you’re not using it!
I picture them as devices made of a stack of paper with words printed on both sides of each page, bound and enclosed in top and bottom stiff boards and operated manually.
A wise man once said that if the book had never been invented and someone came up with it now, it would be up in the pantheon of mankind’s greatest discoveries along with the wheel, fire and electricity.
Even if it can’t tweet.