Smartphones aren’t making you smarter, but using them is
Most people walk around everyday blind to the fact that they hold all of the world’s resources in the palm of their hands. Now, let’s use these hands to give a round of applause to IBM for having launched the very first smartphone in 1992, thus making our lives much easier today. That’s the purpose of technology, right? It’s the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, it’s meant to make things task-free and easy. However, it’s what came before all of this fancy technology that truly changed history. In the beginning, there were just “regular” cell phones and PDAs. Cell phones allowed for calls on the go and PDAs eventually used wireless connectivity to send and receive e-mails. These were some awe-inspiring advances for the 90s, and the secret formula to the smartphone lied somewhere between these two. By melding them together, technology was brought to an entirely new level.
Many people still pose the question of whether or not smart phones actually live up to their name. Do they make us smarter or dumber? The famed science guy, Bill Nye, once said in an interview that they do in fact make us smarter! He stated that the easy access to information on our phones allows us to leave more room for other, more important information in our minds. For instance, your smartphone has the ability to save contacts, make easy calculations and search the interwebs for information on almost anything. If you can’t think of an actor’s name, Google it. If you can’t remember who sung that song, Google it! Whether someone leans more toward Bill Nye’s opinion or the latter, both are wrong. It’s not the phone that makes us smarter — the answer lies in how we use the phone. A lot of times, people forget that there are ingenious minds behind all of these new phone applications. In this sense, these inventors actually get smarter because of smartphones, but only because they advance their own knowledge of phones to capitalize on the wealth that this market brings in. Conclusively, the phone could make us smarter, but there are also ways that we could be smarter with the use of our phones.
Today, there are over 1.3 million apps available to Android users and 1.2 millions apps available to iPhone users. The downloading options are essentially endless. But not all of these are as useful as you would think. For instance, there is an application called “Hold the Button,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It is a game that asks you to compete against yourself to see how long you can hold your finger down on the screen. Exhilarating. There are other apps that have more practical uses and put our minds to work even if we don’t realize it.
If you aren’t scrolling through Twitter and Facebook mindlessly all day, these social mediums can subconsciously expand your range of knowledge. It is easy to follow celebrities, news teams or other creative minds through these networks and keep updated with the world. Available profiles range from people like Katy Perry and Barack Obama to accounts like The Wall Street Journal. Apps that allow you to download newspapers and magazines give users easy access to the latest headlining stories, while also sending you notifications for breaking news. Smartphone users can be globally informed with just the click of a button. Even Snapchat and Instagram include worldly updates like this. Many influential people and campaigns have Instagram accounts to keep their followers up to speed, and Snapchat has the “Discover” feature that works in the same way. Both of these apps increase awareness and knowledge while also increasing artistic and creative abilities. Interacting with people all over the world and creating connections with them also broaden our cultural horizons. More people are influenced to travel and learn how others around the world live. Easy access search engines on smartphones are an obvious benefit. When put to use properly, any and all information becomes available. Not only that, but we are given the opportunity to create our own entries for the entire Internet to see. This improves our writing and reading skills, making everyone a little more literate than they were before. Jumping from site to site and looking through tabs rapidly can increase our multitasking skills and ability to juggle a lot of information at once. We are all unintentionally becoming smarter!
There are more benefits to the smartphone than just these, of course: it all lies in how we utilize our cell phones. Sure, looking through Instagram accounts of cute animals all day won’t make you smarter, but it won’t make you dumber either. The beauty of the smartphone is in the eye of the beholder.
Epatia Lilikas is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in English and economics. Her column "Digital Canvas," runs on alternate Fridays.