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"Smartphones and You – Who call the shots?"

Post on: January 25, 2019

How has the smartphone penetrated our lives? A friend related that whenever guests visit him, he usually serves them tea with samosas, “The adults never fail to compliment the mouth-watering samosas with the generous filling of spicy potatoes while the children would be insatiable. The kids would only be content after I serve them the wi-fi passwords!”

The ubiquitous smartphone has taken a foothold in our everyday lives. There is even a term describing the fear of being phoneless – nomophobia. To many people, it is unthinkable being without the phone. It is the last thing they check before going to bed and the die-hards even take a peek when they get up to take a leak – at 3 a.m.! And it has taken over the good old bed coffee – the handphone is the first thing that greets them upon getting up.

Experts in the psychiatry domain postulate that the brain releases dopamine every time we get a notification on our phone. When dopamine is released, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates a person. We can attest to this phenomenon — every time we buy something precious like a car, a gadget, a new house etc, we feel happy (Dopamine at play).

There may be social effects which may be deemed undesirable as a result of the smartphone. But we can’t deny that it has revolutionised our lives and is here to stay. Whatever information we need, the handphone has made it available in our fingertips. Even when we are out, we can have access to the Emails, make an important teleconference or make an online purchase if we get wind that the much-desired promotion is ending anytime. The phone has made all these so seamless. In fact, we can hardly get lost nowadays… the map application always brings us to our destination.
My connection with the communication gadgets had been a memorable one. I started with the pager. I remember owning one in 1991, conspicuously attached to my belt. The feeling was exhilarating when someone paged me. The beep not only sent a signal that you have a message — but it also resonated to those around you that you are important.

This was followed by a brief tryst with the “zone phone” in the early 90s. It was a Motorola made — users who subscribed to the service were given a flip-phone to make calls. It was a great respite owning one but on the flip side, the calls could only be made in certain areas with the “call zone’ signs; moreover, one could not receive incoming calls. Despite the limited features, at that time it was a great novelty even if it meant pulling up the antenna to get the signal. In retrospect, it was an era where one gets connected and yet un-addicted.

Opponents to the smartphone addiction say one of the drawbacks is it causes anti-social behaviour. We tend to socialise less and get cooped up in our own world. However, the advocates say the opposite is true.

This group propound that the smartphone does not make us antisocial but rather “hyper-social”. It’s innate of humans to connect and compare with others. Our deep evolutionary urge makes us curious about what others are up to. This is the reason why we tend to scroll through the social media at 2 a.m. when we are supposed to be sleeping. We do this despite having an examination in the morning!

Whatever you do, don’t ever lose your handphone – it causes great stress and anxiety. All our personal information is stored there and we rely on it for our daily task. From online banking transaction, booking a cab, paying bills, sharing of photographs and even in some cases breaking up with one’s partner – everything is executed in the palms of our hands!

The smartphone can be a hugely productive tool – it is undeniable that our lives have been enriched by it. However, compulsive use of these devices and being fixated to the gadget can be detrimental. When you spend more time on your smartphone than interacting with real people to the point of affecting your everyday life, it may be time you reassess your usage.

One of the tricks is to go for moderation… As the wise Indian proverb comes to mind: “Even nectar is poison if taken to excess.

By Shaji Thomas Varughese

#JollyGoodTimes #HandphoneAndYouWhoCallTheShots #ShajiThomasVarughese

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