Some friends and I were having lunch one day and the topic of stress came up in the conversation. “What’s the leading cause of stress in our lives?” was the question, to which one guy immediately responded, “My phone!” He proceeded to complain about how dominating the phone was in his work, always having to respond to it or to voicemail on it. He even described a negative physical response when he saw the blinking light that indicates yet another message.
What’s interesting about this conversation is that it didn’t happen yesterday, it happened several years ago, way before smartphone technology included email, spreadsheets and full internet access that inched its way into the fabric of our daily routine.
Karen and I are fans of AMC show Mad Men and often find elements of the show that we recall as a part of our lives during the sixties. One aspect of the show we both find interesting is how it portrays the ubiquitous practice of smoking. We recall the days when there were no boundaries to cigarette smoking, just as the TV series depicts. Airplanes, restaurants, and even doctor’s offices; there was no boundary on the product. It was just an accepted part of our how we lived back then.
So what happened to cause all of that to change? How did the act of smoking go from such a universal, acceptable practice into a shameful health hazard that is being banned from more and more places?
We got sick and tired of it. Literally.
As I said previously, change happens first with a change of perspective. We recognize our point of view is not beneficial and thus switch course. I can even remember some of those old cigarette ads proclaim the health benefits of smoking. Our culture held one point of view about the habit, but slowly over time, a radical transformation took place. An entire mindset was altered, and it changed how we behaved.
The invasive nature of technology is going to be compared to smoking 20 years from now. When someone in the future does a TV show, we will look back and laugh at how addicted we were to our technological devices. We will comment on how dumb we were to have no ebb and flow in our lives and how foolish we were to think that 24/7 connectivity would somehow improve our standard of living.
The smartphone is the new cigarette. It’s just as addictive, and therefore just as unhealthy. The stress that it creates can cause the same wear and tear on our bodies. The difference is that the former can actually be beneficial, but it cannot be allowed permission to gain control. And like all addiction, when it becomes in charge, we become its slave.
And like smoking, we will look back on our addiction to it and ask, “What were we thinking?”