Stock Smartphone
As it turns out, there’s a strong psychological component to how we perceive our smartphones, let alone use them. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: A recent study claimed smartphones improve our memory skills, joining a long list of research findings that talk about how digital devices empower us and make us smarter. It argued that by storing information, these devices free up our memories for additional recall.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is ample data that focuses on what is called “digital dementia”, with surveys revealing that smartphones actually make us lazier, more forgetful and “dumber”.

So what are we to believe? Do smartphones make us smarter or lazier?

As it turns out, there’s a strong psychological component to how we perceive our smartphones, let alone use them.

As Maida Kajevic, Clinical Psychologist at the German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai, explains, “With smartphones making things possible in just a click, there is no denying that they make our lives easier.”

Maida Kajevic

However, she said there is a rider. And therein lies the danger.

According to Kajevic, smartphones have been proven to affect people’s cognitive skills as overdependence on the devices prevent them from getting fully engaged in an activity or resolving a problem. This in turn impacts the brain and can have both a physiological and psychological impact.

Taking the rampant example of people browsing through social media messages, she said, “Constantly checking messages can increase our level our anxiety, make us tired and unwilling to engage in any activity. It can render us lazy and impact our cognitive skills, memory, concentration and reasoning. At the same time, we cannot isolate ourselves from our devices, because even that can have a contradictory effect.”

The key then is to strike a balance and to be conscious of when and where to draw the line.

But beginning with perception, smartphones mean different things to different people. And how they are employed varies from person to person, as is evident from what a cross-section of UAE residents claim.

Constant learning, great reach

For Indian expat Vishal Krishnan, 32, the smartphone is a boon that helps him work faster and better.

The Dubai-based multilingual songwriter, who just released his debut single Oceans Apart, said it was created on his smartphone. “My smartphone helped me curate my music better and reach more people to promote. I wrote my song on my smartphone. I made music, created the melody to the song on my iPhone until it was a complete track ready for the studio.

“In the process of doing all this, there was so much about various apps that I learnt to help me get my job done,” he added.

Faster thinking, decision-making

Similarly, Filipino model Ramzy Hesham Villegas, who recently won the “Mister Model of the World-Philippines 2022” pageant, said his success would not have been possible without his smartphone.

Ramzy Hesham Villegas

“In this technologically advanced world, the smartphone definitely makes us smarter as information is exchanged quickly. It allows us to think faster, respond faster and take faster decisions.”

He said he was always connected to his phone while promoting his entry into the pageant. “It made me reach out to people really quickly. It definitely made me look hands on and smarter.”

A tool to make you smart

Egyptian expat Mina Kiwan, 37, a public relations specialist living for 14 years in the UAE, said: “With a smartphone, any possible information is available at the click of a button. Whether it is news, or the various apps available in the market, all of it makes us smarter and think faster.

Mina Kiwan

To him, “The smartphone today is not just a phone, it is a tool to make you smart.”

To him, “The smartphone today is not just a phone, it is a tool to make you smart.”

Not everyone agrees

For example, American-Swiss expat Golnesa Brunner, 40, a mother of two boys, has a different opinion. “I personally think smartphones have derailed my children’s development. In school, they mainly use tablets so they are not learning how to use pen and paper. They do not know how to write properly. In our time, we used to write out a Mathematics problem. Besides, the emotional quotient is affected and gadgets can make children anti-social.”

Golnesa Brunner

She said, “People are so busy with their phones that they do not realise their life is going by. As the world advances in technology, it is clear that things we grew up with and were taught are no longer going to exist with the younger generations.”

Tool to connect, communicate

Another Filipina expat in Dubai, Khyra Mae Carnese, 24, who works as chief executive officer of a private company, said: “As an entrepreneur, the smartphone is of great help to me to easily connect and communicate with clients and customers. It has definitely made me look smarter.

Khyra Mae Carnese

"Whether it is connecting to people, building a network or portfolio, I am able to do it all faster, thanks to my smartphone.”

A fitness tool too

Arjun Raman, a banker in Dubai, is dependent on his Fitbit band watch and its mobile application to keep track of his fitness levels.

“I track my runs. Fitbit tells me how many kilometres I have run. It tells me if I am on target with my fitness goals. Besides, it shows me the number of calories burnt, the number of stairs taken etc which makes it very interactive and fun to put in the minutes of my workout.

Arjun Raman

"I also get the chance to compare my results with fellow fitbit users in my region to make it more competitive. At the end of every week, I get a consolidated chart of my activities for the past week and how well I have progressed as compared to previous weeks, months and years.”

Not just that, the band also gives him reminders to drink water and monitors his sleep patterns. “Such features ensure that we get on the right track when it comes to our personal health and well-being before it is too late. “