Cuenca High Life logo

Cuenca News

The tyranny of the smartphone

Whatsup with all the media addicts?

I walked from San Sebastian to San Blas the other day and couldn’t help but notice the large number of folks yakking into, staring at or scrolling through their cell phones. What was striking is this that almost every bench in Plaza San Blas had at least two people glued to a little screen that was absorbing all of their attention.

Although my attention that day was on younger Ecuadorians, I am painfully aware that old expats, including many of my dear friends, are also absorbed by the small screen and I don’t deny my own occasional dalliance with the “glass teat” (to borrow a term from 1960s media critic Harlan Ellison).

A dozen years of research clearly illustrates the harmful effects of obsessive cell phone use, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO), to classify the condition as a behavioral addiction. Some research actually shows significant loss of brain function by heavy users and is part of what Andrew Keen calls the “dumbing down of civilization.”

Unlike substance addiction where there are clear changes in daily lifestyle and interferences, the insidious quality of behavioral addiction is more elusive. Obsessing over the relentless barrage of social media encourages reliance on unfounded flattery,  and a media-driven definition of perfection that is artificial, superficial, and damaging. People are spending so much time on their phones, laptops and tablets that they become distracted from building a real connection with the world around them, not to mention the people who inhabit it.

Social media has become the dominant platform where extremist views are sanctioned and tribalism is encouraged, while regard for truth and integrity are buried under a blizzard of sniveling and strident voices more concerned with notoriety than a responsibility to uphold the basic tenets of civil society.

The Pew Research Center recently reported that 36% of U.S. college students surveyed believe that they cannot live without their cell phones. An unexpected result from the study was that 7% of the students stated that they had lost a job or a relationship over their cell phone use.

Perhaps more alarming is the 67% of smartphone users who said they check their phones for calls, instant messages, or updates even when their phones did not ring or beep — a clear sign that something is not right with our behavioral attachment to cell phones. One study found that high school students check their phones, on average, 500 times a day.

I suggest we conduct ourselves in a way that expresses our attachment to the beauty that engulfs Cuenca. The enticing ripe fruit so carefully arranged in baskets and barrows by hard-working women offers us a clear glimpse that perfection is already at hand, and that nourishment is provided through growth, hard work, and a respect for the land. A little meditation on these qualities will sustain us infinitely longer than the battery life of a phone.

Smartphones certainly make life easier in some respect, but please do not lose sight of the fact that there is a life without them.

20 thoughts on “The tyranny of the smartphone

  1. Thank goodness for my smart phone. It allows me to read news and information as well as books from my Kindle app, all the while tuning out the blowhard expats sitting near me talking about U.S. politics or their authoritative understanding of Ecuador.

  2. Robert, you have captured this beautifully in words and pictures. If a picture speaks a thousand words, you have written a stark tapestry of the reality you address.

    I will admit to this. Having fought the temptation to own a smartphone ever since their arrival on the scene, I finally bought my first one about a year ago. It is embarrassing to say how much I have become like those I used to mock. The worst hypocrisy is ones own and I plead guilty to it.

    1. You know, I resisted buying a smartphone in the states for years because there were always requirements to subscribe to a plan. Therefore, I owned one of the first 7 inch android, Wi-Fi only tablets instead, made by the French company Archos. About a year after living here I got somebody to mule one back from the U.S. However this particular message is being written on an Amazon fire 8 tablet I purchased from Mercado Libre here in Ecuador.

  3. Robert, Amen to your comments! I’m getting tired of having to avoid those walking OR driving while looking at their phones instead of the people in front of them that may may be ready to walk or run into.

  4. Why assume it is all about social media ??? People use their phones for all kinds of things, for instance, Google maps, stay in touch with family, look up things to do, look up anything really, stay in touch with mom or dad (safety), call the police, find a place nearby to eat, track a walk, run or steps, read a book (I read more now than ever with the Kindle app on my iPhone), check the weather, make a reservation, , learn a language (Duo), schedule an appointment, check email, read the news, stay in touch with work (some of us still work you know), and on and on. Smart phones give us flexibility in our lives, we are not any longer tied to corded phones or PC’s at home.

    I would say social media is a minor part of how I use my phone. If texting to my son in law in Pasaje is social media, so be it. And by the way, is Cuenca High Life considered social media? and if I were to read this article on my phone would I be guilty of utilizing my iPhone for social media usage.

    By and large smart phones are good for us all

    1. You have laid this out very well. Let’s see if those to whom it was addressed, will respond to it.

  5. Robert, your story and photos remind me of when I visited the Galapagos Islands last summer, where I was dismayed to see countless other visitors looking downward into their cell phones, instead of looking at, and enjoying, the surrounding beauty of nature’s best. Sad.

  6. My phone is an intricate part of my existence. I run my business through it. I connect with family and friends constantly through the phone I’ve never been more connected to people since I’ve gotten the phone. Speech to text, has helped me with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder to improve my way of life. If I die younger buy a few years I’ll be fine with that at least I had a full life. My phone is much more interesting than cua

    1. If you find a place where you can “buy a few years”, let me know, I’ll patronize them.

      Ooops, you meant… ;-))

      1. Hehehe! That’s speech to text for ya!I probably would’ve made many more mistakes if I had typed it myself

        1. I’m new in that area as well and I find that if I don’t carefully proof read my speech to text posts, they are way off. I just discovered how to turn off the part of the app that puts *** instead of the swear words I really want to write and that means I will have to be even more vigilant in proof reading.

  7. Parks have FREE WIFI in Cuenca, that’s why, everybody is sitting on there, like you said, Robert. They’re glu to their phones, nobody has time anymore, to enjoy Life…
    Even when I go out with my friends, everyone is glu to their phones, and I ask myself, why am I here with these bunch of idiots? Wasting my time…instead of doing something more productive.
    At this time, SMARTPHONES are really taking over the young population. I know having a smartphone, could be good to use in an emergency case, or to book a reservation, do lots of things, but the majority of the people, uses only to waste their times. Just feeding the brain with garbage, no more intelligent people to have a decent conversation; or to play a game…nobody seems interested if is not with a smartphone!!
    Sad, as Bartley comments below.
    But absolutely true…nobody has time for each other anymore:)

    1. how do you know the majority of people their use their phone to waste time, read Eric’s post below, Swami’s, read mine. Nobody has time for each other anymore, REALLY ? You are making generalizations based on who knows what.

      1. Remember, before she wore out the name and shamed herself, she was the racist xenophobe that posted under the name, “WonderWoman”. Don’t expect too much out of her.

          1. Another poster outed her and dahliadivino (Barbie Simmons) and I think he did a public service in doing so. Both of them are control freaks that love to tell others how to run their lives, especially when it comes to pets.

  8. If the governments would ban smartdevice usage, I don’t know what the people would do just stand there staring into nothingness. What a bleak world it has become.

Comments are closed.