A Brand New Day: Smartphones making us stupid

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If you read and digested Thursday’s column...

That’s a gold star.

If not, the issue was keeping smartphones out of classrooms.

The entire education system would be better off without social media interrupting the process, but guess what?

The problem doesn’t stop with a diploma.

In fact, the world’s workforce is a mess because of these devices, and perhaps we’d all be more productive if we kept the buzzing, tweeting little devils out of sight and out of arm’s reach.

It would do us good, I think, to heed some words from Nicholas Carr, who posted a blog about smartphones that also was published in the Wall Street Journal.

“So you bought that new iPhone,” Carr wrote. “If you’re like the typical owner, you’ll be pulling your phone out and using it some 80 times a day, according to data collected by Apple.

“That means you’ll be consulting the glossy little rectangle nearly 30,000 times over the coming year.

“Your new phone, like your old one, will become your constant companion and trusty factotum — your teacher, secretary, confessor, guru. The two of you will be inseparable.”

Carr isn’t scolding us.

He appreciates these tech marvels as much as the next person. He understands the appeal, and credits Apple and following manufacturers for creating something that has become almost indispensable.

Here is Carr’s ode to the smartphone...

“Imagine combining a mailbox, a newspaper, a TV, a radio, a photo album, a public library and a boisterous party attended by everyone you know, and then compressing them all into a single, small, radiant object,” he wrote enthusiastically.

“That is what a smartphone represents to us. No wonder we can’t take our minds off it.”

THE PROBLEM, as researchers have discovered, is that even with all the information available to us via smartphone, the little magic devices tend to make us duller.

The evidence is now clear: As our brains become dependent on technology, our intellects weaken.

Over the long term, that’s actually a terrifying prospect.

Moreover, the downside isn’t just the time we waste that could be put to better use — though that’s obviously a massive problem.

Even beyond that, studies have shown that smartphones breed anxiety (waiting for a call, perhaps), along with blood pressure spikes when your phone rings or barks or whatever.

BESIDES THE danger of handing over our brains to a tiny piece of technology, we’ve also degraded our health.

Evidence proves that we don’t accomplish much of ANYTHING as well as we would without a smartphone stuck in our pockets or handbags.

In an article for the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, Dr. Adrian Ward of the University of Texas and his colleagues wrote that smartphones becoming part of daily life seems to be causing a “brain drain.”

They suggested that critical skills like learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving, and creativity all suffer when we rely on our phones.

Isn’t that just about everything?

Scary.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Facebook: BrandNewDayCDAPress.

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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