Mobile phones are rapidly altering how we approach everything in our lives. Now, instead of relying on knowledge and information retained in our brains, we have little need to remember anything. All of our contacts are in one place, and if we don’t have a direct phone number or email we have access to them [...]
Mobile phones are rapidly altering how we approach everything in our lives. Now, instead of relying on knowledge and information retained in our brains, we have little need to remember anything. All of our contacts are in one place, and if we don’t have a direct phone number or email we have access to them through Facebook or LinkedIn. All of our questions are answered through Google and Wikipedia, essentially, the world’s information is at our fingertips, everywhere.
The cost of smartphones is dropping so rapidly that choosing a dumb (or feature, as the industry calls it) phone is not going to be cheaper much longer. Many cities already have comprehensive public WiFi networks, which will in the end eliminate the need for costly data plans, unless you are on the move all the time. The new data plans of the future will be international. People will have their smartphones, with all of their capabilities, everywhere. We wont need to remember anything, we wont need to write anything down. Sorry Bic, the future is not looking good for pens.
But the question becomes, are smartphones actually misnamed? Or, better, is their name ironic? Yes, the phone is certainly smarter, and for someone who uses it hourly to fact check, and read random Wikipedia articles, it can expand knowledge. But are smartphones eroding our natural abilities as humans? Are smartphones actually making us, as a species, less intelligent, in the pursuit to put everything into an intuitive app format?
While that question remains to be seen, and will be answered in about a decade’s time when the technology finally reaches everyone, there is definitely a new level of addiction to phones that in our collective past has never faced human beings. Smartphones are destroying our patience.
Stand in line anywhere, and try to count the number of people also standing in line who are looking at their phones. See if you can spot the person who: pulls out their phone, checks it, realizes there is nothing to check, puts it down, then does the same exact thing less than a minute later. The psychological layers of behavior are not this writer’s forte, but, it is important to address because this writer is guilty of the same thing.
An example: European TV shows, especially during primetime, are in a talk show format. The difference between European talk shows and American talk shows is that the European talk shows have the audience behind the subjects, while in America the audience faces the subjects. On American TV the audience is only shown a few times in sweeping, wide-angle panoramas, while in the European versions the audience members are in constant view. Why do I bring this up? Because now you can watch any European talk show and if you look closely, you will see people in the audience checking their phones. What could be more important than the few hours that you have on TV that would warrant looking down and checking your BlackBerry, was your friend’s status update really that important? Was that kitten video that funny?
The point to this example is that our attention spans have shrunk like Lake Chad (an obscure geographic reference sure, but fascinating). Any hint of boredom or lack of complete engagement and boom, out comes the phone. Because we have no need to remember anything anymore, we are finding that there are fewer things in our mind to occupy us. So out comes the phone to try and take a few minutes out of our lives, and out again will it come when another moment of temporary suspension of action occurs. If a smartphone were really smart, it would know when we were about to lose focus and then provide us with something worthwhile to poke around with.
Tony Hymes is the Editor of the Digital Out Of Home industry website DOOH.com. He produces introductory videos of the companies working across the space from digital signage hardware providers to content companies, DOOH networks, consultants, and software groups. Tony Hymes writes extensively about the strategies behind DOOH advertising, digital signage networks and deployments, and customer engagement trends.