Putting our Smartphones in Control

by Matt Klassen on January 18, 2012

Does anyone really think about how technology affects our lives anymore? It seems that the drive towards technological progress—or rather, simply the development of better, faster, stronger devices, which is subsequently defined as progress—has replaced the need for critical thought altogether, leaving much of the human race (in the developed world at least) hopelessly dependent on their various gadgets and technological do-dads.

In fact, I can’t seem to go a day in my life without hearing someone bemoan just how difficult things are when their wireless network is down, or how disconnected they feel when their BBM isn’t functioning (does it ever?), or how hopelessly disorganized they are when they’ve dropped their phone in the toilet (again).

So what’s my point? Simply put, technological dependence is a dangerous Faustian bargain, and many enter into it without reading the fine print. When we depend on our smartphones for organization, business, motivation, communication, general health and everything in between, those devices fundamentally change the way we live, think, and relate to each other. We begin to see the world in terms of efficiency, speed, profits, and convenience with every problem turned into one that (hopefully) our smartphone can solve.

As the old adage goes, “To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail,” and to a person with a smartphone, everything looks like data to be consumed.

I don’t mean to get off on a rant here, but when was the last time you thought about the power the clock has over your life? It’s a simple tool just sitting there on your nightstand controlling and dictating much of your day, and it’s a prime example of how technology can subtly assume a position of power in our lives. Now my point is not that we should all ignore our clocks—although occasionally I’ve found such an exercise to be quite freeing—but that perhaps its due time to remember that our clocks and smartphones are merely tools, and they only have the power that we give them.   

What concerns me is that we relinquish control of our lives to our technological devices—now particularly the smartphone—in miniscule increments, and truly it’s hard to observe unless, like me, you see hundreds of these seemingly innocuous stories come across your desk daily.

In fact earlier today I came across a story regarding the latest mobile app that tracks gym attendance, charging the user’s credit card when they miss a workout—with proceeds apparently going to other faithful gym attendees. It’s a nothing story really, hardly worth anyone’s attention—unless throwing away money seems like a good motivator to you—but it speaks to a larger systemic issue, the fact that people by in large have forgotten how to motivate themselves or plan their day without the assistance of their smartphone.

While I regret the fact that this sort of blog simply doesn’t offer the necessary forum for such philosophical and sociological discussions—leaving this rant hopelessly open-ended and under-sourced—every once in awhile I find it necessary to think critically about how technology affects my life and the world around me, to consider whether this Faustian bargain with technology is worth entering into, and occasionally remember just who’s in control around here (its my wife, right?).

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment }

Guest January 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Hey! BBM works most of the time!

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