The year is 2013 and I just received my first smartphone. I received my first cell phone in 2007 (I walked home from school so it was needed in case of an emergency). My first phone was a prepaid Tracfone. For me to text, I needed to press numbers multiple times to even send something as simple as “I am on my way”. It took minutes to send a text like, so I wasn’t too preoccupied with my phone at that time. That all changed when I got my first smartphone. At the time I thought my life had changed for the better, but looking back on it, my life got more complicated.
You’d think getting a smartphone would make life easier, but in reality, it makes more difficult. Yes, having a phone where you can search anything, nearly anywhere, is amazing. It also creates a division between us and the world. Just look at people sitting down at a bus stop or people sitting on a train. They are all on their phones. I was at the gym the other day and a lady walked in, while she was on her phone. Instead of putting it away to go and work out, she stayed on that call for 20 minutes. We are so attached to our phones that we can’t put them down for a few minutes. Our phones are a part of us now. Phones are now like a parasite, taking away our free will.
Our free will isn’t just tainted by smartphones, but by technology in general. Have you ever been scrolling through your Instagram feed or your Facebook feed and come across an Ad from something you barely looked at on Amazon or Google? We don’t realize it but ads are being catered towards us. We’re seeing what companies want us to see.
“They hope to automate the choices, both large and small, we make as we float through the day. It’s their algorithms that suggest the news we read, the goods we buy, the paths we travel, the friends we invite to our circles.”
The news on our feeds is shown to us based off of what we read. If we read mainly liberal articles, our feeds are going to be surrounded by the liberal news. If we read mainly conservative articles, our feeds are going to be surrounded by the conservative news. “Digital forces have completely upended the political system, and left unchecked could even render democracy obsolete.” If we’re only getting half of the information, how do we expect a truly democratic society? It’s going to leave us divided.
The goods we buy get based off what we view. I’m an actor, so I’ve had to buy costume pieces. I had to buy spandex for one of the shows I was. The day after I purchased it, my Amazon was feed was cluttered with multiple different types of spandex. The paths we travel are also covered with ads. If you’ve ever used the app Waze, ads constantly pop up trying to alter our routes. I’ll be driving home, and up, on the app pops an ad to go to Burger King. This pops up completely out of nowhere. I’m not even hungry, nor have I looked up food recently, but because I searched up a Burger King joint one time, I get ads flowing in all the time. The friends invited into our circle are completely controlled by Facebook. I’ll go through suggested friends from time to time, to see if any of my middle school or high school friends are there. People I’ve never even heard of pop up on there, just because we have five mutual friends together. Unconsciously or consciously, Facebook is trying to control who we become friends with.
Websites like Facebook are also controlling what we like. The like button is completely destroying our society, and Facebook and Instagram are controlling it. Half of the time I don’t even like what I see, or even actually see it, but only like it because it was posted by my friend. Sending “likes” someone’s way makes them feel good, which is a very weird concept. We crave likes from people who we may not even know. Some people even take down posts or pictures because of their “picture quotas”. Picture quota is something I’ve made up to describe what goes through someone’s head when they post a picture. “If I don’t get ‘X’ many likes on this post/picture, I’m gonna feel bad and take it down”. Twenty years ago, this would have been such a foreign concept to people. Now it’s an everyday occurrence.
As soon as we post something we constantly check our phone to see notifications of where we are on likes. It’s such a fulfilling feeling to wake up and just see your phone filled with notifications. Whether that be likes, or texts, or snapchats, we love it. It makes us feel wanted, and Silicon Valley is to blame. “Silicon Valley is inadvertently, whether they want to or not, are programming people”. They are programming us to live through our phones. Even if I don’t even feel a vibration, I check my phone. It’s a distraction to just have it on us.
“Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that decidedly old-fashioned and nontechnological.” How are we supposed to do any work with this type of distraction around us? There’s a simple solution. We can either:
- Lock all distractions away. Buy a lockbox with a timer and put your phone and any other distractions in it.
- Use a timer. Connect an outlet timer to the router to run off the internet at a set time each day. I had that as a child, and even though I thought it sucked at the time, looking back on it, I wanna use it now. I wouldn’t be staying up until all hours of the night, doing nothing if I had that.