A Father and Son Reflect on the Smartphone Revolution
The first iPhone went on sale at 6 p.m. Friday, June 29, 2007, “and suddenly the world was in our pocket.” The device created the i-generation: i-centric and i-absorbed. It created a new cult and culture. A new language (apps, clicks, texts, likes, selfies, swipes). It turned us into an always-on society. It brought us the term FOMO, or fear of missing out. Millions started to measure their self-worth through clicks and likes. The urge to check the latest news became uncontrollable. We were consumed with capturing and sharing every moment with anyone who would “follow” us. The iPhone changed the way we communicate and the way we interact with each other, like breaking an engagement via text. While they seem to connects us, smartphones often leave us feeling empty and alone — even when we feel naked without them.
These symptoms might be viewed as merely superficial, trendy, everchanging, but the overall impact of technology on us as a society should not be underestimated. Since we turn to them to answer so many questions, have our smartphones become some sort of god-like machine? Have they robbed us of time for reflection and critical thinking? Will future generations suffer from information paralysis?
History books list the agricultural revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the communication revolution. It’s too early to determine if the smartphone will deserve its own revolution label (world in your pocket revolution?), but one thing is clear — no other device has ever changed so much, so fast and reached so many. It is projected that by 2020, 70 percent of the world’s population will have smartphones. Like it or not, we will be a globally connected species.
When my mom handed me my first iPhone in a parking lot in 2010, it felt like she was pressing a Benjamin into my hand — I was perfectly happy without that $100, but I sure could do something with it. I was 20 years old.
Think about all the physical objects that your smartphone has practically made obsolete: your daily newspaper; a calculator; a daily planner; 50 pounds of books, now stored in reading apps; the digital camera you used to find so sleek; road maps you used to fit in the glove compartment — what should we put there now? Smartphones wake us up in the morning, provide the soundtrack to our daily commute, and sleep beside us at night. From giving us traffic updates by the second and even helping us find romance, smartphones have revolutionized our lives.
But have smartphones given us more time, or just sped up its very fabric? While they enable us to keep pace with society, society itself just moves faster now. We used to plug into the digital realm through a modem on a computer; now it’s practically a part of our bodies.
I often wonder if we still wonder anymore, if there isn’t a place on this planet that hasn’t been fully mapped, measured and encoded. I wonder if we’re missing out on the romance of mystery: of bygone times, waiting in anticipation by that specific water fountain for your date to arrive. There’s no clear answer to these concerns. In many ways, it’s all too new to have any perspective on it. Call me nostalgic, but I recall the joy of visiting New York City for the first time without the help of Google Maps, and God forbid I had to ask an attractive Austrian woman for directions. Would we have found ourselves at a jazz club later that night if I had simply Googled my destination from the palm of my hand?