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Smartphones and Being Smart

by Stephanie Koehler

I recently had a series of hardware malfunctions that left me intermittently without my smartphone for several weeks.  While I frequently profess to NOT being one of “those people” who is attached to this device like a chain-smoker to a cigarette – a bit of self-evaluation gave me a slightly different perspective.  But something even more interesting happened while I wasn’t constantly twitching from the vibration of an incoming email, text, facebook message, tweet or phone call.  I started noticing – with heightened awareness – an unfortunate cultural phenomenon.  Smartphones are making us dumb.

My first disclaimer is to admit that I have almost certainly been guilty of all of these behaviors at one time or another.  My second disclaimer is that I suspect I will again be guilty of these same things in the future.  However, if awareness is the first step to improving – I’m on my way.

Have you ever noticed a couple (or a group of friends for that matter) having dinner at a restaurant – yet they are so busy on their phones – they hardly speak?  It makes me sad.  Certainly they have something to interact about – or they wouldn’t be there.  How about someone on their phone — so engaged with a conversation about their important charity event that they run over the sweet elderly woman in the grocery store?  When did being an “important humanitarian” become more important than being human?

Perhaps it’s the writer in me – or perhaps it’s my innate human desire to connect on a meaningful level – but it seems to me the art of communication is getting lost with this technological advance.  The subtleties of human expression are lost — reduced to statements that can be made in 140 characters or less.  It seems that excellence is being replaced with ease.  The concept of investing forethought, vision, strategy and planning seems to have been replaced with the notion that speed of delivery is more important than accuracy and intention.

Another interesting – and stressful – concept reared its head during this time of “disconnection”.  Unrealistic expectations.  We have become a society that expects to have an instant response and immediate answer to everything.  At first, I was along for the ride – scurrying to apologize for not being able to produce work at the speed others determined necessary (whether they were paying clients or just demanding people).  After staying up nearly all night to make up for what seemed to be lost productivity – three very critical thoughts hit me.

First, while everything seems to have become a crisis and everything seems to be important – very few things actually are.  Second, the more “connected” you are to technology – the more likely you are to be “disconnected” from what it means to be human.  Third, I think I am actually smarter when I don’t have my smartphone.

While it’s not realistic – as a business owner – to completely reject the conveniences of this technology – I am grateful for the lessons learned during those weeks.

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