King: Stop abusing of technological advancements

Scott King

Average estimates tell us that modern humans have been roaming the earth for 100,000 to 200,000 years, while text message capable cell phones have only been around for 18 years. So of the thousands of generations of human beings that have existed throughout history, our generation — the millennials — is the first to grow up with these amazing pieces of technology in our pockets.

Smartphones allow us to communicate with almost anyone in the world from wherever we are within seconds. Growing up with cell phones has blinded us to how incredible this actually is. Do you realize that some cultures actually used to use pigeons or smoke signals to send messages to each other? 

Unbelievable communication capability is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what smartphones offer the human race. Personally, I think the rest of the iceberg can be described in three words: instant Internet access. 

Instant Internet access means that almost any question you have can be answered immediately.

Do you want to know how the Great Wall of China was built? Google it. 

Do you want to know what the gestation period of a flying squirrel is? Google it. 

Do you want to know how tall Whoopi Goldberg is? Google it.

You can not only have your questions answered almost immediately but also experience the world through your smartphone. With the World Wide Web in your pocket, and tools like the CNN news app or the National Geographic magazine app ready to be downloaded, there’s almost no limit to what we can learn about.

People need to try and understand what this unlimited access to knowledge means for the human mind, because if you ask me, the potential is awe-striking. But since our generation has had this as a norm for so long, it doesn’t mean much to us anymore.

Unfortunately, the potential for underutilizing and abusing the capabilities that smartphones offer is just as awe-striking. 

I have sat in a room full of friends in absolute silence because everyone was paying attention to their phones instead of paying attention to one another. Such an easily accessible distraction is threatening social skills. A UCLA study suggests that spending too much time using electronic devices can decrease abilities to read non-verbal emotional cues, which are critical to social interaction. Another study conducted by a photo sharing app called Flashgap found that 87 percent of millennials say they miss out on conversations because they’re preoccupied with their phones.  

People are often more concerned about the rest of the world knowing they’re having a good time than actually having a good time. I see people at bars and parties repeatedly taking Instagram pictures and Snapchat videos instead of living in the moment they are trying to capture for social media. Their attention is more invested in social media than being social. 

Smartphones can act as an escape route from an undesirable situation or conversation, but taking that escape route does nothing to further yourself.  When conversation at the dinner table shifts toward politics and you check Facebook rather than tune in to the debate, you learn nothing. 

Smartphones are incredibly powerful technology, and as Peter Parker’s uncle Ben said in the 2002 Spider-Man film, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  This is why I think it’s important that we consider how we are using our smartphones. We need to choose to use them as a means to improve ourselves rather than a way to stay stagnant.

Instant communication with millions of other human beings should represent the spread of new and exciting ideas — not instant notifications on what pop culture is up to. Instant Internet access should represent the access to useful knowledge rather than an advancement we have long taken advantage of.