Recent news reports tell us that smartphone sales are slowing. This is terrible news for Apple, but it might be good for the rest of us. Life still happens in the real world, and if we’re not careful, screens will monopolize all our attention.
The great value of smartphones is that they bridge the digital world and the physical world. They make our lives easier and certainly facilitate a lot of commerce. The positive impact of this technology is pretty staggering, and it’s particularly clear in developing countries. People who don’t even have indoor plumbing can now connect with and participate in the global economy.
As much as they are an incredible achievement for humanity, smartphones also have a dark side. As my uncle warned me as a child, there can be too much of a good thing. Staying connected is good, but being connected all the time necessarily means sacrificing other priorities, usually in the real world.
As a parent, I definitely worry about my kids getting too hooked on digital stimulation. Restricting screen time has been a key way to protect them (and myself), but that’s a temporary solution that cannot hold back the tide. Digital tools seem to pervade modern life more and more every year, and all of us need to learn how to manage these tools so they we can vigorously pursue our life goals.
Our phones lead us into a fantasy world where our attention is the currency others use to make their fortunes. A lot of very smart people are working hard to keep our eyeballs glued to those screens. I don’t want my kids (or anybody) to miss out on real-world relationships, adventures, and other opportunities, because the simulated versions in their phones are easier and safer.
Smartphones are one of the greatest inventions of all time. Only a decade after their invention, billions of people depend on them every day. They allow us to communicate, navigate, schedule, shop, control our homes, and so much more. Phones are amazing, but the real world is still where the truly vital parts of life happen. Let’s all try to remember that, and keep our smartphones in their place.