Criticizing people for being “too attached to their phones” is the logical equivalent of accusing people of being “too attached to their brains.”
To illustrated, let’s see what happens when we apply common critiques of smartphones to another one of humanity’s most potent tools: the human brain. Those spoiled sapiens, one might say. In my day, the best anyone had was a limbic system, and we LIKED it. In reality, the fact that we humans have such advanced brains that keep on finding ways to do things better than pretty much any other creature on earth is the reason you haven’t been eaten by elephants yet.
Imagine, if you will, a curmudgeonly hunter on the ancient Serengeti as he witnesses the dawn of his era’s ground-breaking technology: the spear. He watches as the youth of his day bring down bison after bison, while their hunting expeditions enjoy an unheard-of survival rate of nearly twenty percent. “If only we could go back to the old days,” yearns the curmudgeon, “when we had to fight the bison mano-a-mano, before all of these silly inventions made us soft and weak.”
For those of you who believe that any sort of dependence on a device is somehow inherently bad, let’s once again apply your attitude to some ubiquitous and versatile devices that our ancient predecessors lacked: such as, you know, LIMBS. Let’s say I got my hand chopped off, and I’m somewhat put out by the occurrence. I may feel it necessary to express my displeasure. A reasonable person would respond with sympathy, understanding that I have suffered a crippling loss.
If you’re someone with an automatically negative view of new things, however, you might respond thusly: “Kids these days are so addicted to their hands. Well, now you can chisel open coconuts with your teeth, just like we did back in ‘Nam.” (Someone with this attitude is probably also the one who cut off my hands.)
The point is this: anyone would be justifiably upset by the loss of something important, like their hands, or a hammer, or a death ray, because they implicitly understand that they will now have to do certain things in stupid, inefficient ways. They will have to do things that humanity has spent thousands of years and trillions of watts of brainpower to not have to do. Without their tools, they’ll have to do nonsensical and tedious things like blow on their own pasta.
I was once like you, phone-haters. I believed that the technological saturation of everyday life was a cancer, a blight that would bring our society to ruin. I didn’t understand my peers and their fascination with the various and – I thought – superfluous functions of these gadgets. All I had was an old broken phone, and that, I resolved, was good enough for me. Then, last year, I acquired my first real phone. And as I began to unlock the powers that had just been placed in my hand, the earth itself did tremble.
All at once, the furthest reaches of the world, all of the knowledge and abilities of humanity, had fallen within my grasp. I could gain new skills on a whim with a simple click to YouTube. I could download a flashlight into the palm of my hand. I could listen to audio that didn’t sound as though it had been recorded by an asphyxiating raccoon. With my new phone in hand, I had surpassed the boundaries of this mortal coil.
So sure, it’s possible for us to live just fine without smartphones and the interwebs and a mutual hatred of Autocorrect. It’s also possible for us to live just fine without our advanced modern brain systems, as thousands of other species have proven. But just because we don’t technically need it is no reason not to use it extensively. Anything we use, from our brains to our hammers to our phones, we use because it makes us more effective at whatever nonsense we’ve gotten up to this time. The knowledge and inventions of the past allow us to further make our own unique contributions to humanity.
“We don’t need it” isn’t an argument. Just because you can zip up your fly by squeezing together your belly fat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your fingers. You don’t get points for juicing fruit with your face. (Note: need to test) And for us nowadays, it’s silly to hunt down a friend to tell them in person that they owe us money when we can try to extort all of our friends at once from the comfort of our own phone.
So in summation: next time you judge someone for using their phone too much, make sure you’re not using your brain.