Unlike most of my peers, my parents were kind enough to give me an iPhone 3GS when I was only ten years old, an act virtually unheard of amongst my peers. At the same time, my new smartphone opened a whole new realm of possibilities for my life, from video streaming to handheld gaming and even the possibility of writing on the go. It would be fair to say that this device brought the world to my fingertips and changed my life in ways I could not have envisioned as a small child.
Nowadays, smartphone usage is common even amongst children. My peers and I complain about how good children these days have it, given the current abundance and prevalence of smartphones, coupled with increasing ease of use and hardware capabilities. With most of my teenage years spent with a smartphone, it seems prudent to look back on my smartphone’s role in my life and see if a smartphone is a boon or a bane for the next generation. Here are the three ways smartphones changed my life.
My parents expressly intended for me to use my smartphone for educational purposes; no longer would I have to trawl through dictionary pages for word definitions or scour science textbooks to clarify if potatoes are classified as roots or underground stems. They wanted me to harness technology and overcome the difficulties they faced as students. In hindsight, the convenience my phone provided indeed helped kindle my passion for learning. By removing the physical obstacles of manually searching for information, I could more effectively and efficiently use my time to learn and absorb new information. At the very least, I could use the same amount of time to accomplish more.
The convenience that smartphones provided also stemmed from their ability to accomplish different tasks. It was a notebook, a calendar, an alarm clock, and many more functions rolled into a single, portable package. Not only could I complete numerous tasks in a short amount of time, but I also did it with far less hassle. The presence of this powerful tool greatly simplified my life by compressing all my tasks while retaining their functionality.
Additionally, my phone also helped enhance my relationships with others, not just by connecting with my friends through messaging apps but also because of the new types of information they could share. From images, videos, and website links, we could explore interests, jokes, and topics cohesively thanks to the computing power placed in our palms. Communication through diagrams, external resources, and text-based conversations was possible through the multiple mediums available on our devices. I was able to foster internet-based international friendships due to the ability to message them on my smartphone. Despite the difference in time zones, I could respond to their messages even while I was busy in school or going out, and they could do the same for me.
Even when taking on assignments in school, smartphone communication helped coordinate our team’s approach. We could seamlessly discuss our ideas and proposals while also quickly pulling up any facts that would bolster or hinder our strategies. Being able to respond to each other’s messages in real-time while also collaborating on shared documents, especially if we were not near a computer, drastically increased our productivity and effectiveness.
In hindsight, the convenience of handheld internet access on my smartphone turned out to be a double-edged sword. While I could look up any piece of information I required, my lack of discipline would let my curiosity or laziness get the better of me. Games, videos, and online stories would distract me from the task at hand. It was not uncommon for us to sneakily use our phones to play games and chat with our friends in class. While I am grateful that I had friends to encourage me to study and assist me in areas where I was weak, I often wonder how much better I would have performed had I kept my smartphone’s distractions at bay.
Additionally, the constant ringing of notifications proved to be an invasive feature that disrupted my daily routines. For a time, I would crave the sound of delivered messages as it signaled that someone wanted to strike up a conversation. Over time, I learned that this distraction would interfere with my focus, hindering my accuracy and clarity of thinking while doing work.
However, with my phone silenced, the paranoia I felt in missing important messages would remain a significant mental strain for years to come. Be it in work or play, the stress of accidentally ignoring my friends would constantly hang over me. Today, I have to allow myself phone breaks to check if I have overlooked any messages; this remains the most effective way to work uninterrupted for most of the day.
A smartphone is what it is: a powerful, portable handheld device that possesses the capabilities of numerous other gadgets packaged into one. Disciplined and strategic use of a smartphone is crucial to capitalizing on its potential. Uncontrolled phone usage can spiral into full-blown distractions, or even worse, crippling addiction. Despite these dangers, its power can still be used for healthy and fulfilling entertainment while also being a game-changing educational tool. To truly make the most out of this technology is to make sure that we are the master of our smartphones and not the other way around.