Are Smartphones Overrated?

Ainsley Morrison, Creative Writing Editor

The term “overrated” is used commonly in modern society to convey distaste for something that is most often hyped up by the majority of people. This term can be attributed to foods, people, concepts, events, or items. One of these items that I consider to be overrated is smartphones. Smartphone technology has dominated the 21st century and for almost everyone is an essential aspect of life that many cannot see themselves functioning without. Smartphones are used for everything from basic communication to social media to mobile games to video streaming, and although they have created many shortcuts for modern citizens to interact with the people and the world around them, they have ultimately caused more problems than they solved. Smartphones are overrated because they create a dependency on material objects rather than encouraging the nurturing of live human relationships, and drastically increase unhealthy amounts of screen time that are detrimental to overall emotional, mental, and physical health. 

Smartphones are arguably the most prominent modern invention. Almost every individual can be found accompanied by some type of smartphone ranging from Apple to Samsung and everything in between, a dependency that has become increasingly evident as this technology has become more and more accessible. In 2021, this smartphone dependency has even broadened its capture to young children, who instead of playing outside or forming important social relationships and behaviors, spend time satiated by smartphones or smartphone-like devices. This dependency on a material object rather than a live human relationship is one of the worst features of the invention of the smartphone. Now, instead of interacting with a friend or family member, you can just ask Siri a question or go to Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, and more, to watch other people interact. Furthermore, most people feel such a strong dependency on their smartphone that they won’t travel anywhere without them. Even putting down their smartphone for an hour or two can make the average modern person feel bare or unequipped for life when in reality all that is missing is a small, metal, pocket brick. In many cases, this has impaired the social skills of our society to the extent where a common red flag to look for on a date is how many times the other person checks their smartphone notifications! People struggle to carry on a conversation holding eye contact or know what to say in a professional setting because they are so used to hiding behind the safety of a screen and spewing “text speak” messages at 36 words per minute. Ultimately, this dependency on smartphones has pulled important focus away from the development and maintenance of human relationships that can’t be achieved solely through a blue-light emitting, 6-inch screen. 

In addition to the unhealthy social behaviors that we develop around dependency on our smartphones, we also develop emotionally, mentally, and physically and unhealthy behaviors in regards to the extreme amount of hours spent on our screens. Due to our increased dependence on our smartphones, spending unnecessary hours scrolling through their many features is a convenient use of time since at any given moment we can simply retrieve our phones from our pockets or bags and be presented with an immediate escape from whatever is around us. Getting sucked into this digital world that exists miraculously right at our fingertips whenever and wherever we need it, is one of the most dangerous aspects of smartphone usage. This escape sets up harmful precedents that allow us to avoid our emotions, (specifically deadlines, commitments, or difficult situations) when in reality this is not always possible. Outside of the world of the smartphone, there are consequences for your actions and unavoidable uncomfortable experiences that we are training our brains to not be prepared for. We spend hours upon hours a day on Netflix, Instagram, Facebook, and more, to often accomplish close to nothing, behavior that takes a tangible toll on our emotional, mental, and even physical health. Mentally, the hours spent browsing the vast expanses of social media are extremely detrimental to body image and self-esteem/confidence, and often create false world perceptions; everything on our smartphones is edited, filtered, retouched, and often commercialized. Although we have become accustomed to everything in the world being on our smartphones, we often forget that our smartphones are not an accurate representation of the world. Physically, this unnecessary screen time has been scientifically proven to be devastating to sleep patterns as well as simply causing people to spend more amounts of time sitting on a couch staring at a screen instead of being active and interacting with their surroundings. Yet many people are so consumed with, influenced by, and dependent on the concept of smartphones that they are not willing to accept the dangers they pose. 

Smartphones do provide some benefits to society, most importantly in their improvements and contributions to communication methods. Smartphones have allowed family members, friends, and significant others to maintain relationships and connections across the globe. They are a means of immediate communication from virtually anywhere, featuring the ability to text, voice call, or video chat. This positive aspect of smartphones has been most recently brought to light during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, almost everything is digital. I wake up each morning and attend digital classes, submit digital homework assignments, and communicate constantly with my teachers and peers through digital mail. Without smartphones, this level of communication would not be possible and the pandemic has shown the power of staying in touch via smartphone technology. For many families, smartphones are the only way to talk to relatives who they haven’t seen in months due to travel restrictions or health concerns, a mode of communication that allows us to nurture important relationships that we truly have no other method for maintaining at the moment. 

However, if anything, these benefits are exactly the reason why we have become so dangerously dependent on smartphones, devaluing our own emotional, mental, and physical health as a result. Smartphones act as a double-edged sword in their ability to connect people all over the globe while simultaneously fostering poor social skills and setting harmful precedents for how we approach real-life situations and interactions. Ultimately, the detrimental effects of smartphone usage outweigh the hype and praise that they receive and should therefore be categorized as “overrated.”