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The world is facing a drug crisis — an unprecedented one. No, I'm not referring to crack, dope, meth, weed, marijuana, heroin, pot, or anything edible for that matter. I'm talking about a hunk of metal and plastic about the size of a cassette tape that most people nowadays can't live without.
That's right: "smartphones".
Although they've been around for basically a decade, they've already become highly integrated into most people's lives. Most people who have smartphones are addicted to them. Chronically. Many people under the age of 25 or 30 can't fathom live without them. Many people can't even recite more than a few phone numbers. Good luck if you get booked one day.
No invention is more troubling and more problematic than the "smartphone" or "mobile" as it is often referred to outside of the United States. There are the health consequences — those who start using smartphones (or any cell phone at all) will be five times more likely to get brain cancer. It's not talked about much, and the industry does a good job at covering it up, but the risks are real.
There are the psychological health issues that arise with smartphone usage. Teenage suicide and depression rates have peaked at all-time highs, paralleling the rates of smartphone adoption among teens.
Then there is the social cost of lost interaction and disconnection from the real world.
Oh, and forget about having great-great-great-great-grandchildren. If the way smartphones are used doesn't change, humans will become extinct in about 150 years. No, that's not conspiracy: scientists who extensively research non-ionizing radiation and health effects have found that mice are completely sterile within 3 generations. In humans, that would be 5 generations. Men and boys of reproductive age sterilize themselves everyday by putting their smartphones in their pockets.
Nicotine is, in most respects, a drug. Tobacco is extremely stigmatized today, and rightly so. Cigarettes may not be considered "drugs" in the traditional sense, but they fit the definition well. They are addicting, bad for your health, and often leave people bankrupt.
Smartphones are every bit as much drugs as cigarettes. Research has shown that brain scans of people using smartphones are indistinguishable from brain scans of people using drugs. Both spike you with dopamine, and both leave you wanting more.
Smartphones have disrupted society more so than any other human invention in history — including the Internet. No other invention has been so controversial and yet so "essential" for so many. This doesn't affect just "developed" countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are 3 times as many cell phones as toilets. This is disgusting, sad, and just plan indicative of how fast society has begun to devole and unravel. Selfies are literally more important than food or sanitary waste disposal to many Africans. Just a generation ago, that would have been unthinkable. For most of the 20th century, there were far more toilets than telephones. And of course, cell phones have ruined area codes now. Who ever heard of calling long-distance to your neighbor?
If any technology can be singled out for ruining humanity, it's the smartphone. Humans were not designed to be connected to technology 24/7/365 for their entire lives. Many teens can't even rest from technology at night — they sleep with their smartphones under their pillow or on their nightstand. And saying goodnight or good morning is antiquated now — the first and last thing most teens (and most others as well, to be fair) is check their smartphones. Not only is this bad for your health (the radiation disrupts the body's melatonin production and makes it think it's still daytime) but it also has clear psychological effects. Casually strolling around, people clutch them like their smartphones are literally appendages. Apart from being unsightly to watch, it's a quick way to make everyone around you think less of you. If it means anything now, smartphones are often portrayed negatively in advertising anyways. Smartphones are unattractive, and make you look unprofessional. A watchmaker has capitalized on this and is airing "Looking at your smartphone makes you look dumb and even ignorant." Restaurants are capitalizing not on "Free Wi-Fi" now but "No Wi-Fi". It's sad so many people would rather look at a device for time than at their watch or at a clock. Ironically, it takes much longer.
Although most people won't admit it, life before smartphones is vastly preferable to life with them. Humanity has passed the tipping point of progress — progress is not something that can be made for its own sake — and smartphones are the surest way for all of us to make our ways quickly to our grave. Smartphones have truly given new meaning to the phrase "Get a life". It's become painfully obvious to see that smartphones deprive people of their lives. It prevents them from really living. High-quality personal conversations on the landline are traded for pictures and garbled text messages that carry empty meaning. Desktop computers that can actually be used to accomplish things are eagerly traded by devices with small screens that can't really do anything that well. I've said it once and I'll say it again: smartphones are not "progress" in any way, from the computer or the telephone. Landlines are superior in every way to cell phones, where phone calls are concerned. And desktop computers are superior to them in every other way. That's right: smartphones are a downgrade.
Economists say that consumers are "rational", but smartphones have seemingly broken economics. Consumers would rather pay for a $50 cell phone contract every month and get a new $600 iPhone every two years. Smartphones suffer from planned obsolescence. Landlines, particularly "real" telephones that were manufactured by Western Electric during the Bell System days, do not. A $20 "vintage" rotary or TouchTone telephone from eBay is more than half a century old, and will likely outlive you. They are simple contraptions, with no electronic components inside (minimal with TouchTone phones), but that's enough. Simple is better where telephony is concerned, and anyone with brains can do the math. If a $20 telephone can easily last more than 100 years, why buy $600 smartphones that need replacing? Oh, and the cost of a landline is significantly less — as low as $25. Plus, you know, you only need one for your entire house.
Numbers don't lie. Using the numbers above, the cost of cell phones for a family of four with, say, a $100 per month bill, for 50 years would be $75,000. The cost of a family landline for 50 years? $15,020.
I don't know about you, but I have better things to do with $59,980 than spend it on something that I don't need and isn't good for me anyways. Why pay more for worse voice quality? Yet, millions of "irrational" consumers do just that. It won't be long before politicians in Washington catch on. People have $60,000 of extra money in their pockets that they just waste on fads? Time for taxes to go up!
Oh, and I forgot to add in the cost of brain cancer above — which can run up to about $500,000. Assuming that only 2 people in a family of 4 get brain cancer over the course of 50 years, that sets them back another million dollars. And ever heard of "secondhand radiation"? The "marginal social cost" of using cell phones is far more than any costs that may occur to their users. Cell towers generate massive externalities all over the world everyday, often in the form of breast cancer. No, you won't pay for killing your neighbors, but that's not a pleasant outcome to say the least. Talk about paying more for less!
Smokers are now seen as outcasts. They are ostracized by their non-smoking peers. We've come a long way from the days when it was in good taste to smoke — when it was fashionable. Society is coming to terms with the reality of smartphone usage. People are starting to look down upon those who smoke and those addicted to smartphones. More will join their ranks. Smartphone usage is rapidly becoming unfashionable. One day it will achieve the stigma of tobacco, and people who use smartphones will be ostracized, and rightly so.
This wasn't meant to be a persuasive post. It's simply a sad reflection of the sorry state society has sunk to. At present, most people think less of others using their smartphones around them if it's a distraction or just plain rude to those around them. But the gap between cigarettes and cell phones only gets smaller. It's time that mainstream society finally wake up and denounce the smartphone for what it really is — a drug.