This is for the downcast heads of people claiming to be happy. I want to speak to reflected faces in phone screens, enduring the tapping of their own fingers like Chinese water torture. This article is for those who have ever run into a telephone pole, tree, mail box, or pedestrian on foot or in their car. It is for the people who realize that their life, privileged with access to unlimited information, may be in danger of losing it. This message is for smart phone addicts.
Like leather pants or credit card debt, the life of a smart phone addict is easy to get into, but difficult to escape. Research has shown that instead of seeking to “just stop” an addiction, it is better to replace that habit with new interests, therefore expelling the old one. With smart phone addiction being a new complication in our society, studies have been conducted to find an alternative to the lack of awareness and isolation that commits so many to therapy and the hospital. In searching for a replacement addiction, I have stumbled upon a familiar habit that might prove to be a viable alternative: cigarette smoking.
This might be a shocking suggestion since our society has had some reactions to cigarettes in the past thirty years. Lawmakers and activists have directed thousands of dollars into ad campaigns that raise awareness of its dangers. New laws have been successful in making environments like bars, casinos, and alleyways more health-conscious for citizens. We are indebted to the tobacco abolitionists. But, despite these prejudices and laws, I would like to offer a few comparative examples between smart phone and tobacco addiction that might change minds and possibly save lives.
- First I want to look at addiction communities. Smokers are evicted from our clean environments, but these exiled groups generate good will when a pack of cigarettes makes its way around a smoking circle. The life of a smoker is one where sharing (a concept we all learned in Sunday school) is encouraged when someone gives a smoke to a fellow addict who is “fresh out.” Smokers often keep their habit because of the accepting groups who empathize in the weakness of nicotine addiction. The smart phone addict’s lifestyle is accepted everywhere, but not usually improved by tangible community. The concept of “sharing” something (in the carefully manicured spaces of Instagram and Facebook) is for improving the rhetoric of profiled lives—to filter out flaws. The representation of a normal day passes through a dream catcher of digital enhancement.
- On the subject of smoking, safety is a topic of concern. Someone will argue that a smoker endangers lives by their habit. Please don’t misunderstand, I enjoy living in a society where safety and health are both top priorities, but the life of the smoker seems daring. It’s bold to defy the warnings of his Excellency the Surgeon General. On the other hand, smart phone addicts conform to the trends of the world and traverse the globe without any danger to their person. Riots in the Middle East can be witnessed anytime and anywhere without feeling one explosion. A celebrities’ self destruction can be watched and gossiped over without the burden of empathy.
- The argument is often made that smokers smell and their habit does not produce good hygiene. It’s true that few things matter more than physical cleanliness, but smart phone addicts have a scent of their own caused from lack of social hygiene. This is sensed when a buzz or chime interrupts the flow of a good conversation and someone’s presence is ignored for texting or updating. It may be that some of us are not evolved enough to fit into this staccato rhythm of human interaction. Perhaps like a bad smell someone can learn to acclimate to it.
- A regular smoker will realize that there must be time in their day for one cigarette as needed. The smart phone addict is given to constant buzzing and beeping of an electronic device. There is a notification for email, twitter, hundreds of apps, social networks, and news feeds for this new habit that suffers from severe ADD, launching the addict into the poly amorous world of the temporary.
- The smoker’s head is vertical and sees the outside world. When the face looks down to light a cigarette it’s illuminated by the glow of real embers. Smart phone addicts continually have their heads down, with faces glowing by the light of all worlds, except the one they’re standing in.
Addiction can be deadly, no matter how you supply it. But if you’re facing the choice of feeding one in your life, then please think about the next generation in your decision. When a parent commits the unpardonable sin of smoking around their kids, the smell of burnt tobacco in crib blankets and nicotine stains will be evidence that they were present in their lives. But Lord save us from the days when the faces of healthy moms and dads are only remembered as colored rectangles, censoring full attention and affection.