Smartphone use and your impending mortality

In today’s world, cellphones and personal electronic devices are an integral part of everyday life for many Americans. We use them for everything: from staying connected with loved ones, to doing our homework, conducting research and even leisure.

While I have a lot of appreciation for my cellphone a part of me wonders what sort of effect electronic devices, and smartphones in particular, have on our culture, interpersonal relationships, and mental and physical health.

As I walk across campus I am amazed to see how many people have their noses buried in their phones and don’t seem to be paying any attention to the world around them.

Now, it seems that every awkward silence, every streetcar ride, every crowded bathroom, and every moment in which life does not demand one’s absolute undivided attention, is filled with the pitter-patter of thumbs on a touch screen.

Honestly, I’m just as guilty as anyone at doing this, but lately I have grown discontent with the role I’ve assigned the device I carry in my pocket.

I can’t help but feeling that my Android is a crutch I rely on too heavily in my daily life.

For this reason, I have been trying to use my phone less, check social media feeds less, and not Google every little question that pops into my head.

I honestly believe people spend way too much time on their phones.

Not surprisingly, studies show that people spend anywhere between 1.5 to 4.7 hours a day on their phones. While this may not seem like much, this means people on average spend anywhere between 23–71 days on their phones a year.

Of course, not all of that time is necessarily wasted. People often use their phones for worthwhile endeavors like looking up important information, directions or calling their significant other.

However, I’m sure if you were to compare the time people were doing practical things versus playing Candy Crush and endlessly scrolling through Facebook feeds, I’m sure the vast majority of cellphone use is not 100 percent necessary.

To put such use into perspective, if we assume people spend at least three hours a day on their phones, this means a person could spend up to 1,100 hours on their phone a year.

If you are in your 20s and you live to be at least 70, this means you could spend up to 56,000 hours on your cellphone. That’s 2,333 days!

While I think that some cellphone use is good, there are definitely better ways to spend your time.

According to the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Language, an English-speaking student of average aptitude, engaged in full-time study of a language, needs about 720 hours in order to reach proficiency in a language like French, Spanish or Italian.

That’s less time than a person spends on their phone annually.

Reading is another good substitution for smartphone use. The average adult reads at about 300 words per minute, which means classic books like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden could be read collectively in 19 hours, or better yet, the same amount of time the average person spends on their phone a week.

Besides not spending time productively, excessive smartphone use could also be negatively impacting your health. Everything from increased stress levels, a rise in young adult back problems, lack of sleep, increased risk of chronic pain and vision problems can all be linked to cellphone use.

I don’t expect people to forsake smartphones, nor do I think people could accomplish as much as these number breakdowns might lead you to believe, but I think examining how much time we spend on our phones is a noble cause.

I recently read an article where a man in his 30s pointed out that if he only ate pizza once a month, he would have pizza 480 more times in his life.

For some reason, the notion of not eating pizza at least 1,000 more times definitely made me more aware of my unavoidable mortality.

Life is precious and the idea that I could spend a decent chunk of it scrolling through social media feeds terrifies me.

At the end of the day, I think the world would be better off without the constant transmission of information from a touch screen, and I hope that in the coming years this becomes a prevailing idea.

If not, then I’ll be first to denounce the impending robot warlords that lie in the near distant future.