Page 2 – Just Because It’s Really Useful Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad
If I told you in 1990 that I could give you the power to know basically the sum total of all human knowledge limited only by you having to overcome your own laziness to ask about it; to be able to navigate anywhere freely; to capture and share any moment in time with anyone in the world; to be able to instantly converse with any of your friends or family anywhere in the world; to be able to share your thoughts and broadcast them to the entirety of the world—you would have thought I was overselling a new god-like superhero for a Marvel comic.
Yet the iPhone bestows these powers and more to everyone. The iPhone makes the Star Trek communicator look like an ancient and unfamiliar past. To not make constant use of these amazing powers to augment and enhance the human condition is not avoiding addiction or showing restraint, but an exercise in extreme ludditism.
Much of this supposed addiction to the phone can really be explained by the the movement of several other supposed ‘addictions’ to the phone itself. People now surf the internet, watch TV and play video games all in one convenient location (things all decried to be ‘addictive’ by one nanny group or another at one time or another).
If you you used to spend 1 hour doing each of those three things on separate devices, and now do those separate things for 3 hours on a single device, does that somehow represent addiction, or is it just more convenient? In fact, an argument can be made that by allowing you to listen to music and surf the internet and play video games, simultaneously multitasking, on the phone, that for many people it may reduce overall time spent on those very same tasks.
When we were kids and played Nintendo sitting side-by-side like zombies staring at the TV for hours, not at each other, is that really different than kids sitting side-by-side staring at their phones like zombies playing games? The difference is now they can do the same thing with their friends cross town or cross country. Is that more addictive, or just more convenient?
Your Bugs Are My Features
And phones solve many problems. When I look at the phone in the elevator, it’s because I don’t want to talk to you or engage in what I consider worthless smalltalk. This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. At that moment, I don’t want to foster a ‘greater sense of community’ and it avoids the awkwardness of my not acknowledging you by being distracted by a plausible acceptable alternative activity. But pro tip, when I do want to engage with others, I just put my phone in my pocket and talk to people I want to talk to. See how that works?
When you pacify your kids by shoving iPads/iPhones in their face during car drives, it’s not because you were hoping they would argue and ask you annoying questions the entire ride. It’s because you want some peace and quiet, and them being entertained during an otherwise boring trip is a good thing. But pro tip, when you want to engage with them, tell them to put the phones away and have at it.
When your kids pay attention to their phones during dinner instead of engaging in conversation, it’s probably because both of you have nothing to say, and, many times the phone is a way of bringing up a cool topic to discuss to kill the dead air. “Hey mom, did you see that Justin Bieber is dating someone new, check out what TMZ says. Hey dad, I saw that the Patriots made a dumb trade, did you see it on ESPN? Hey Bobby, did you see the neighbors dressed their cat and made it play the piano, check it out!” And if you don’t want them on the phone during dinner, pro tip, tell them to put it away.
And if you really don’t like this incredible advancement in technology for your kids, do like Steve Jobs, and monitor and control and/or outright forbid its use. If he can do it, so can you.
Real addictive technologies are being ignored so people can yell “Apple” in a crowded internet
Which is not to say there aren’t technologies that are constructed to purposefully hook and addict users. Gambling comes to mind. Some slot machine makers employ psychologists to construct mechanisms that are purposefully addictive. These companies employ techniques that promote human compulsion, preying on other human frailties, e.g., providing microbursts of rewards (rewarding sounds and visuals) even when you’re overall losing to encourage further play. Some app makers are reported to have employed many of those same techniques to promote addiction, including games and social media apps. That is totally messed up, and actually worthy of reporting and attention.
But that is too boring for SSAAD. Plus it doesn’t have the clickbait word “Apple” or “iPhone” in the title. Not only is there no evidence of Apple purposefully designing its phones and apps to be addictive, the company is so goody-two-shoes in its soul that it actually provides mechanisms to thwart and reduce use, e.g., black-and-white mode, ability to turn all notifications off, Apple Watches to reduce reliance on the phone, etc.
Apple is only guilty of making a profoundly useful device that has augmented and advanced humanity’s capabilities. These ‘addicts’ are at worst guilty of blaming others to justify allowing their id to run rampant, or at best guilty of being media attention whores along with a complicit and abjectly horrid press.
Here’s one last pro tip. If you use your phone too much, and don’t like using it too much, then don’t.