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Smartphones: addiction or necessity?

Many claim if you gave up your smartphone, your life would get better

Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: It’s almost become an extension of your arm – the ever present smartphone, equally loved and hated by all. In a 2016 survey, around two thirds of British people admitted that they would feel lost, unhappy or anxious without their smartphone.

One in three Americans said they couldn’t eat a meal without being on their phones, according to a survey this year by a weight-loss company – Nutrisystem. Because of these addictive habits, many people claim that if you just gave up your smartphone, your life would get better, your relationships more meaningful and experiences more complete. But is that true? And if so, is it even possible? Gulf News readers debate.

Impossible

It helps me commute, find food and pay bills

There are different reasons why I can’t stay without a smartphone. Firstly, it helps me commute! It is easy to book a taxi from anywhere using online applications and also buy airplane tickets. It helps me stay connected — I can speak with people who have a special place in my life, any time. It is also my work companion – I am able to reply to work-related emails from anywhere since my computer is heavy and not easy to carry around everywhere I go. I can find the nearest hotel whenever I am hungry or order food delivery from any location. It even helps me bank. In Kenya, we have a mobile banking platform, which is designed to allow us to shop, save money online, pay bills and even take a loan out by just using my handset.

I am able to get news faster, since I don’t have to stay at home and wait for ‘news time’ on television. It is faster and convenient via social media and I can also search for anything that I am curious about and get immediate answers. When I am bored, I turn to my smartphone and it keeps me busy. So, from my point of view, I cannot stay without a smartphone and cannot imagine how people used to live in the olden days.

From Mr Felix Gitonga
Mechanical engineer living in Dubai

Practical

What is needed is moderation

Because I was one of the last generations that knows life without mobile phones, I think I can live without it. However, right now it seems impractical. We are a more connected society, so, sure, we could survive without it but I do not think it is right to take it away because it is helping us progress. But it is necessary to train people to be less compulsive in their use of mobile phones because at the end of the day, it is just a tool. It depends on how you use it. Behavioural conditioning is necessary and people need to be educated and made aware of the fact that it can become a mental health issue with people getting addicted to their phones.

Companies will always be driven by profit. The health food industry put specific chemicals in chips and biscuits to make them more addictive. What we need to do is become more conscious and aware and moderate our behaviuour. If not your phone is going to be something else.

Having these phones is helping us in so many ways and technology is advancing at a stunning pace, taking away our phones is going to make us go backwards. Having said that, our brains are not designed to process the amount of information that we are getting from our phones, so we just need to moderate our intake.

I also agree that phones are making us live less meaningful lives but you cannot live like a hermit and throw your phone away either. You need to adapt your mobile phone use in a way that suits your lifestyle and does not disturb your inner peace.

From Ms Sushma Shenoy
Business owner and lifestyle blogger

Music

Spend a little time enjoying life

Yes, I can live without my smartphone. In fact, I think it will help us start using our brains a lot more and help us get smarter, we really are too dependent on our smartphones. We are wasting precious, quality time with family, though it is useful as far as the internet is concerned.

However, I feel we are getting addicted to it and wasting time more than utilising it. I also feel that is not nice when it comes to our health, we should not be holding on to the phone all the time, especially at night, after 9pm. Instead, we carry it to bed, which I really don’t like, and wake up with it. It used to be that we woke up with a prayer!

I do have a smartphone but I still prefer those that only make calls and, at the most, send text messages. My husband uses a smartphone as well and so does my daughter who is 20. My son, who is 15 years old, does not have a mobile phone and he does not even touch ours. He loves music, so he uses the tablet or laptop at home to search for tips on how to play percussion instruments, for example.

My daughter does not have a Facebook account and I use mine minimally.

We as a family love music and enjoy different activities like debates and discussions. When my daughter, who is a good singer, comes home from college, she sings and my son plays the tabla. That is how we usally spend time at home. On the other hand, when I look at other children, they seem to be connected to the world through their smartphones, but I actually think they are becoming lonely.

From Ms Naina Nair
Novelist living in Abu Dhabi

Balance

Yes, we could get rid of phones, but would it be a smart move?

This is indeed a challenging problem for people of all ages. Quite often, we focus on young people but this actually affects everybody who is literate to use a smartphone. The reason is that the phones we are using nowadays are not just phones — they are very powerful computers, which have a lot of functionalities. So, it is not about whether they are good or bad on their own, it is about how we use them. If you hand over a very powerful computer to inexperienced hands, it can be a force for good as well as bad.

Can we completely get rid of them? I would just like to go back to how things were two decades ago and most adults would remember that we did not have any mobile phones, so how were things managed then? We were able to live happily, in a satisfied manner even though, yes, things were probably a bit slower in some areas. So, we can we live without phones, but will it be a positive move? I don’t think so.

They are a good source of information and education and even when it comes to social media, which is often one of the bigger concerns that people have, it is not all bad. Like any other habit this is something that needs to be supervised and we should follow the rule of moderation.

When we talk about young adults and children, it is very important to supervise them but the supervision can only work if parents set an example. This is why I am very much in favour of ‘mobile-phone-free time’ at home, when there is some time during the day that you do not use any electronic devices, including the television or tablets and have time dedicated to just talking.

Excessive use of smartphones or internet in general does affect the functioning of the brain and a person’s psychological mechanism in some way. What we do know is that it can make you hyperactive and restless and affect your pro-social skills, which is the way you interact with people around you. When you are on the smartphone your brain is working quite fast, even though you might be sitting on the sofa or bed, because you are switching from one thing to another. So your brain gets used to that pace and it becomes a lot more difficult for you to sit calmly and quietly. There is a risk that mindfulness and the ability to enjoy the current moment can get affected in a negative way.

Excessive mobile phone use is also associated with increase in some mental health problems including anxiety related problems and depression.

So, it is important that we as adults make sure to hand over these powerful computers to children at the right age.

From Dr Saqib Latif
Consultant Child and adolescent Psychiatrist at the American Centre for psychiatry and neurology

- Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor

Gulf News asked: Can you live without your phone?

Yes 57%
No 43%

Have Your Say:

Do you think you can live without your smartphone? Is it impractical to give up smart devices? If so, do you think people can live more meaningful lives while embracing technology? Share your views with us on this issue or join us for future debates. Write to us at readers@gulfnews.com

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