Smartphones are Our Generation’s Cigarettes

Nicotine is addictive, everyone knows that, but so are smartphones and social media.

Although lots people still smoke today, cigarette culture back in the 50s and 60s was mad different from cigarette culture today.

  • Similarities

Everyone smoked back then. From grandma, to blue collar workers, business people, pregnant women, even preachers smoked ! It was ubiquitous. 

Besides, cigarette ads were outrageous !

(By the way, 50 years from now, kids will look at meat, fish and dairy ads the way we look at crazy nicotine ads today.

Meat, fish and dairy are more harmful than cigarettes ever were, but they thrive on misinformation and bad education.

Beside being extremely harmful to the animals and the planet, they’re literally destroying our health, in total impunity.)

Anyway, not the point ^^

Similarly to nicotine addiction in the 50s, it seems as though everyone is addicted to their smartphone today.

In 2019, in a pre-pandemic environment, NBC reported that teens average over 7 hours of smartphone use a day.

That number is now higher for both teens and adults, as teens now spend up to 9 HOURS a day on their phones !

Madness !

Cigarettes take years off your life by just killing you (cancer). Social media takes years of your life by making you endlessly scroll, and lose your sense of purpose and time.

Cellphones can also cause cancer and sharply increase tumor risk (source: UC Berkeley)

  • The observation:

It’s sad to see what has become of interpersonal relationships, and activities in the ‘real world’ altogether.

I’ve decided to write this post to remind myself and my readers of the harms of excessive cellphone use and social media exposure. I also believe we need to push back and raise awareness against what’s happening in this realm.

It ain’t just about smartphones though, it’s about what’s in them.

Social Networks, gaming apps, dating apps, and so on are driving us away from the things that really matter. We’re losing our very humanity because of them.

Instant gratification and FOMO are this generations worst diseases, as discussed on this episode of my podcast with Deborah Cooper, columnist, author and relationships expert.

I believe we need to rethink the place of smartphones in our modern societies, and the way we interact with both technology and each other, bridge some gaps.

I also think we need to push for less addictive designs.

As a society, we must hold Big Tech responsible for their doings and encourage them to focus on making more functional and utilitarian platforms instead of addictive cash cows.

Furthermore, we must be more aware of how technology is affecting our brains and society as a whole.

It’s like we have billions and billions of people zonked out, consuming hours and hours on their phones without realizing that they’re wasting years of their life.

Something needs to be done here.

  • From a behavioral standpoint

Our smartphones are the cue, craving, response, and reward all at once. They’ve been designed to be addictive, easy to handle and ultimately became our go-to gadgets to find simulated happiness, always a swipe away from a dopamine hit.

Unfortunately, we aren’t aware enough of this, and when we are, we just dismiss it like we do with many harmful things (ask your smoker friends).

Internet addiction is a bigger problem, though. It’s a problem that nobody wants to admit and something that’s beyond individual control.

Funny thing is, it’s almost unreasonable to think it’s someone’s fault for developing this addiction, because at the end of the day, WE are the enablers.

How many kids do you see glued to an iPad at ages that seem ridiculous?

Remember just a couple years ago when big tech pretended to care about this problem with some half-baked features like screen time & limits on their platforms? It was laughable.

I’m obviously not against social media, dating and gaming apps, not one bit.

I’ve actually met the dearest person to my heart on one of these apps.

But with that being said, wisdom lies in moderation.

There are many studies that link depression and a low life-satisfaction to social media use and online dating apps.

Furthermore, Social Networks are becoming increasingly invasive, and are a pervasive part of modern culture, which greatly affects our global mental health.

“Human beings find purpose in their responsibilities. Responsibilities aren’t a burden, they’re a gift and they give our lives meaning.”

  • So what can we do, collectively, to save people from becoming zombies ?

So, this is my favorite part and the reason I wrote this post.

There are dozens of activities that you could and probably should be doing right now if you weren’t on your phone.

Here’s a quick list of things that you must look into and that could potentially break your addiction and increase life satisfaction and connectedness with the world:

  • Hiking and trekking: hiking doesn’t require any training, gear (besides decent shoes) or entry fees
  • Picnics: with friends, your partner, family, your dog, picnics are fun and great way to meet like minded people in the real world
  • Ramble the town you live in, there are always some lovely hidden gems that are defo worth exploring
  • Chat in person with no schedule in mind, about anything, chill with your partner or your best friends, go for tea
  • Biking: not just to work or to run errands, but just for the sake of it
  • Do something whimsical like find handfuls of acorns to paint with cute smiley faces
  • Workout with friends
  • Go to your local shooting stand and learn how to handle weapons
  • Take up a new hobby: Yoga, Tai Chi, Knitting, Guitar playing, language learning, coding, drawing, blogging, writing, woodworking
  • Invest your time in charity work and/or teaching/mentoring
  • Dog/cat keeping whenever you’re free and don’t know what to do. Animals are a great way to fight stress and anxiety
  • Visit your local parks and cemeteries, go for a stroll there, use that time to reflect on your own life and how to improve your life and that of those around you
  • Play sports with your buddies, or join new groups with whom you can also hoop/play football
  • Explore your local libraries and their books
  • Write your own book
  • Learn how to cook and dabble with your diet. Learn more about what you’re putting in your body on a daily basis
  • Practice conscious breathing
  • But most importantly, make sure you always have something going on in your life to keep you pumped.

One of my podcast guests once told me “humans find purpose in their responsibilities. Responsibilities aren’t a burden, they’re a gift and they give our lives meaning“.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

There are so many useful ways to spend your free time, so don’t waste it scrolling endlessly.

Who would've thought "Cyber Cafes" or Internet Cafes would fit into our pockets someday ?
  • Millennial nostalgia

Back in ye olden days (late 90s, early 2000s), my friends and I used to spend hours outside. Riding our bikes around town, playing football in the street, freestyling, telling jokes, climbing trees, running or “working out”..

And whenever our finances matched our desires, which wasn’t that often, we’d grab a bite together and just .. talk.

No one was distracted while talking, because smartphones didn’t exist..yet !

At the risk of sounding old, those were definitely “the days, bro!”

P.S.: who would’ve thought “Cyber Cafes” or Internet Cafes would fit into our pockets someday ? It’s insane come to think of it.

I grew up in Cyber Cafe era, we used to hang out in cybers all the time, mostly playing video games (essentially Counter-Strike and Red Alert)

Here’s what Red Alert looked like ^^

Shit was mad dope, I ain’t gonna lie !

  • So why the sudden change ?

Tech companies leveraged smartphone ecosystems by using gamification and behavioral economics as their tactics to trick our brains into consuming more and more on our phones.

This is common knowledge but such strategies were inspired by casinos, the devil’s ground and masters of addiction.

Psychologists like Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman have had a major influence on how tech apps have been constructed to have addicting rewards systems.

  • In closing

I genuinely hope that people realize social media isn’t a substitute for real connection.

As a species, we must have a better understanding of ourselves if we want to keep evolving and find genuine happiness. It may not seem like it but we’re still as primitive as a man from the first century AD, only with more gadgets around us.

But it’s fascinating how slow death never gets a bad rep, though.

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