Technology has come with many great things that a few years ago would have been considered as sorcery or an impossibility. Revolution has been felt in every aspect of our existence from health to communication to shopping and even work, However it isnt all sunshine in this era. With any aspect of progress, there are new challenges that must be faced. Such challenges have been seen with the introduction and evolution of communication technology; namely the smartphone. This paper is an analysis of the effect of the smartphone on critical thinking capabilities of the person.
Decades ago when Hewlett & Packard released a touch screen device that did not take off, they wouldnt have thought today a modification of that very gadget would change the age of communication and information as everyone knew it. Today, a large number of people own smartphones devices, most of which are touchscreen, and may not know how to survive without them. Smartphones are so efficient that we could use them to check the mail, interact on social media platforms, search the internet and even know our physical position on the globe. The advantages are numerous. But with every advantage comes a disadvantage to consider.
Fig. 1: a comparison of internet use among different age groups in America in 2000 and 2003
Research on technology has been in every field including health and communication. The irony is that the same organ that made a smart phone possible, is feeling the brunt of its own creation. Our brains today are now paying for the being so intelligent. How? Well, there are quite a number of ways.
Fig. 2: the allegory of the smartphone: have we abandoned the ability to think?
The learning systems that were present when the development of technology was not at the rate that it now have now changed because of technology. Children are now more adept to engage themselves in shortcuts. However, this is not optimal for growth as during growth, the child is supposed to grow neurotransmitters that eventually help them better in their thinking endeavors. The effects may be having a coming generation that is less sharp than the adults CITATION jim \l 1033 (Alger). We are now using Google as a long term memory platform and not our brains. In 2011 researchers showed that students remembered less information if they knew they could get the information on a computer, or online CITATION nat \l 1033 (Barr). Teens that are used to getting information straight from the net via their gadgets, will more likely take the easier way out. This makes sure that there is a ready shortcut available for the student should they need to find information. The result is that critical thinking skills are no longer a viable option CITATION bbc \l 1033 (Roberts).
This is one of the reasons why cheating is quite rampant all over the globe. Why think for long periods of time that we really do not have for a simple answer as opposed to looking it up online? This is one of the reasons that students apply when consoling themselves to cheat CITATION opp \l 1033 (Oppenheimer). Our critical thinking and analytical skills have been muted. We have come to depend on set algorithms and other peoples long hard thoughtful hours other than our own brain power.
We are being wired today to think and dream in color as our smart phones are. Research has shown that adults that grew up with black and white television dream in black and white while todays teens dream in color CITATION bbc \l 1033 (Roberts). Everything has become visual. That unless we have a diagrammatic expression of information it becomes harder for us to retain it. That would explain where avid readers of books in libraries are quickly dwindling in favor of online pictorial files. This makes us feel like reading via other forms is not as understandable. This setting somewhat impairs our cognitive skills and by extension how we solve our problems. Neuroimaging of smartphone users show higher stimulation in the areas of the brain used for short term memory as opposed to long-term memory areas. It has been established that we need long term memory for problem solving (McLean, Frisko and Amanda). It thus becomes concerning that the persons involved are only engaging their short-term memories instead of their long-term ones, while these would be the parts where the person would be able to think better.
One aim of any individual engaged in meaningful work is to concentrate. When we are deeply engaged in an activity it consumes us and every bit of energy within us. Today with smart phones we find that our concentration spans are getting lower. How? It offers a ready distraction at almost all times. That call or mail you are anticipating could make it difficult to diligently attend to your work. Many at times people have burnt food or even missed out on moments with while their eyes were fixated on a screen. Without total engagement it may be hard for anyone to be presently active in their environment. What this translates into is non comprehension of their environments. One may miss out on important aspects that may impair your overall understanding of what is going on around in their environment.
Smart phone light has been related to sleep disturbances. They suppress the release of melatonin. Once we have been fixated for long periods of time on the screens we tend to be more prone to take longer to fall asleep as well as insomnia CITATION jim \l 1033 (Alger). This is because the light stimulate our brain cells to feel as if it is still day light outside. With us working longer and tiresome hours, this may result in restlessness. With a tired brain comes moodiness and sluggishness. Our cognitive ability is on the rocks. Simple tasks become loathsomely tiresome and frustrating. . Fatigue kicks in and we are less productive and efficient.
Smartphones come with applications for both socializing and connecting with others. We create an online profiles. They may match or not much who we are in real life but they are causing many people a lot of anxiety. We live in fear of missing out on things happening in our social networks. We want to be the first to know, to be seen, to like a page or to critic it. This anxiety is becoming common place with teenagers especially where cyber bullying is rife. Everyone has a most beautiful profile online. We keep trying to show the world that I am living a better life. Driving a better car and socializing with the best. We want to try out trends that we saw someone millions of miles away try out so as to fit in. Many people may not realize the amount of social anxiety their smartphones created in their lives. We keep competing and comparing ourselves most of the time unwarrantedly. This kind of tension affects our self-esteem sometimes making us not clearly identify with who we are. It is known that anxiety causes the release of stress hormones into our blood stream. That is adrenaline and cortisol. They increase the heart rate and blood to vital organs. In the long and if for the wrong reasons this two hormones have an effect on the brain. The hippocampus-it encodes threatening events into memory- and amygdala (it processes incoming signals and alert the brain on possible threats and trigger anxiety) are hyper stimulated that may result in cognitive distortions that may result in breakdown of our analytical and problem solving skills.
In the world there has been widespread outcry. The quality of work in the arts especially in the creative forms has been dwindling with growing creativity. Truth is we are not as creative anymore. We seem to have forgotten to think out of the box. We find that creators of our generation are becoming fewer as even the sharpest of minds opting to develop the existing ideas but not start from scratch. We do not know how to start from scratching the surface anymore. We find that online there are many ideas to pick from that we choose to copy and paste. This has equally been the case in literature. The English language has suffered blow after blow by texting language that most of the time is just short forms and abbreviations. Texting on our smartphones comes complete with emoticons and emojis CITATION jim \l 1033 (Alger). You dont need to tell exactly what you are feeling but just simply add a small face and that will do. Our creativity as a form of self-expression and an extension of our individuality has been diminished. By letting gadgets think and define us, we lose ourselves. We can no longer then find the solutions that befit every unique situation that challenges us.
There has been established there is a connection between our smartphone habits and our active impulses (Alger). Swiss scientist, Arko Ghosh of the University of Zurich together with his team of scientists concluded that finger and thumb movements over the surface of a smartphone screen reshapes sensory processing received from the hand that continually updates the brain's representation of the fingertips. They compared by EEG brain impulses of people who used smartphones and those that used other handsets. They realized that there was higher stimulation in smartphone users.
Over-reliance on smartphones has also made us quite lazy, so to speak. There is now an app for almost everything that you could imagine from dial a delivery to shopping. It is possible to work, shop and do almost everything without having to walk out of the house. This has an adverse effect on interaction with people. Our social skills become diminished. Being that humans are social beings, we learn mainly by socialization and this may have an effect on our abilities to learn. Without going out there, we fail to engage in real life encounters. Truth is as much as a smartphone may try simulate feelings of interaction, nothing beats the traditional way. We learn by active participation and repetitive habits. When this is taken away and we are faced with a situation that a smartphone cant solve we may be at a loss.
The internet can be very addictive. There is very little different between a drug addict and an internet addict. This is according to a study in 2012 CITATION opp \l 1033 (Oppenheimer). The brain changes mimic those of alcohol and drug addicts. We may not realize it or where the boundary is but the truth is that very many people are addicts. There have been reports of people going into junkie mode with feelings of withdrawal and despair because they havent had their phones in a while. This is a common phenomenon for almost all other forms of technology for example the television, radio, iPod and so on.
Smart phones have made us prone to propaganda. It is sometimes difficult to fact find on every detail we find online. Some take whatever they see online as solid truth. The biggest beneficiary of this has been radicalized and extremist groups. So many youth have been pulled in by repeated exposure to both graphic images and news of the own going war. Some in the attempt to seek out the truth have found themselves pulled into a dark world. Extremist groups have set quite a recruitment online campaign. With hundreds of sites on their behest smartphones have given them a platform to advance their interests.
It would be imprudent to paint smartphones as all bad. Many good things have come from it. Our levels of understanding on the things that happen around us has been greatly improved. Today we can get information at our fingertips from every single place in the world in seconds. This not only keeps us greatly updated but also knowledgeable. Smartphones have also enhanced learning across all generations. Viable applications have made it possible to study online. There are language apps, math apps, science apps. In any topic or language there is out there. Millions of articles and scholarly documentation from the best brains of the human race. Whether one...
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