Smartphones and Peter Pan syndrom
A world without loneliness, doubt or boredom… our smartphones have transported us back to our infancy, and turned us into needy, neurotic beings with the attention span of goldfish.
For the past couple of months, streets have been filled with strange creatures of all shapes and sizes, walking around slowly with their smartphones in front of them, entranced by a riveting game of Pokemon Go. It has become socially acceptable for full-grown adults to spend hours playing in an imaginary world. But Pokemon is just the latest illustration of how us smartphone users have been magicked back to childhood, and not in a good way.
Comfortably connected to an infinite number of people, smartphone users never have to be alone, and we can’t remember how to do so. Go outside any metro station, and you’ll see people waiting for their friends, eyes glued to their screens. I do the same, and I admit that often I just open and close random apps so people think I’m messaging someone. Without my phone, I feel terribly self-conscious, as though people will think I am a weirdo with no friends.
As for love, it has been transformed by Facebook and Whatsapp allowing you to see when your other-half, or crush, was last connected, and whether or not he has read your message. By enabling and legitimising a certain brand of stalking, these apps have given free reign to the needy and neurotic tendencies in all of us. Sarah, 27 explained to me how Whatsapp has become a constant source of torture. “When I see that my boyfriend has been connected but hasn’t answered my message, it drives me crazy. I check several times a day to put my mind at rest – except I know it’s not healthy and only feeds my anxiety.” Sarah isn’t alone. According to a study by tech consultancy firm Tony Ahonen in the US, people checked their smartphones on average 150 times a day.
Our relationships may be filled with the terrifying doubt of “typing” bubbles, but doubt about anything else in the world has disappeared. There is no need to learn anything anymore. I don’t know what the Scout badges of the future will be: no one will learn to read a compass when they have google. We are back in the time before we found out that Santa Claus didn’t exist, that parents sometimes lie, and that maybe they don’t know everything.
Mobiles have become our comfort blanket. Researchers at the University of Missouri show that people who are separated from their smartphones can suffer from strong psychological and physiological effects. »iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of ourselves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state, » writes Russell Clayton, lead author of the study.
Meanwhile, as we text compulsively, the world keeps turning. And there are no apps for the things we need. No app to save the elderly from loneliness, nor to help people out of poverty. No app that stops animals from going extinct – like dozens do everyday, becoming as imaginary as Pokemons. No app for peace in Syria. We will have to put down our smartphones, and come up with solutions. If there are any grown-ups left ?