Being a technologist one might assume that I have the latest gadgets and devices, but I actually enjoy it pretty old-school. I finally got rid of my VCR about five years ago, and only upgraded the DVD player to a Blu-Ray a year or so ago (only $49 at Walmart!), even though I rarely use it due to the advent of Netflix. I was still the last adult I knew who wanted a flip phone while everyone around me was awestruck by the first smartphones. When I was forced into the smartphone arena, I remember going into the Verizon store adamant with the salesperson that I didn’t want to text, didn’t want to take pictures of my pocket lint, and I for certain didn’t want ANY of these “apps”. I just want to make and receive phone calls. He politely explained: “Sir, what you’re looking for is called a landline.”
So, I got a smartphone. And for the first few years I was able to keep it to about three apps. Email, phone, text. Oh, and the weather, that was handy. But now, my goodness, I just counted 52 on my home screen. 52! I think that’s absolutely absurd.
Pull out your phone and count yours. You might have a lot more. And you’re not alone. It looks like the average smartphone user has around 75 apps on their phone and uses 30 of them routinely.
These apps control our lives. I cannot believe every one of them has a notification feature that vibrates every time a status updates, a message is sent, or something insignificant changes. If every app’s notifications were turned on they would be taking over the world. Move over zombies, here comes the notification-apocalypse.
My youngest, who is 13, protested when I insisted we re-install Qustodio, a parent-monitoring and time-limiting app on her recently upgraded smartphone. Despite us telling her that we are concerned about how much time she spends on the device, and how it sometimes turns her into a monster once she re-engages with humanity coming off-screen, and how we wish to limit the types of apps she has access to, she confidently countered with “what about you?”
She’s got a point. Kelli and I spend a lot of time on our phones. “But we have a business to run!” “But we want to make sure our kids can reach us in an emergency!” “But something alarming might happen in political news!” Really? We are just as addicted as our teenagers. And there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
We’ve had to institute rules in our house to keep smartphones at bay. No phones at the dinner table. We’ve done pretty well with that one. No phones in bedrooms at night – let them charge in the kitchen. Score one for our teen, and random compliance with her parents.
It’s a really tough problem. Smartphones are giving us a lot of freedom, while at the same time enslaving us. They bring us information in a timely manner, yet rob us of our time. When’s it going end? What’s going to help us keep our sanity?
I welcome your stories and thoughts…