Smartphones make us less humane – Hillsdale Collegian

Smart­phones might affect you more than you think. | Pikrepo


These days, no one looks up to the sky. No one looks at their friends. Walking from class to class, car to building, or bedroom to bathroom, we cannot help but reach for our phones. Every noti­fi­cation during class is an itch that only the strongest can resist scratching until dis­missal. We’ve habit­uated our­selves so deeply we hardly notice.


On an indi­vidual and rela­tional level, smart­phone usage makes us less humane. The argument I will make is indeed sim­plistic and narrow, but my intention is to encourage honest self reflection, not to write a treatise. 


With smart­phones we are unin­ter­esting humans who are dis­in­ter­ested in the world around us. The sound of birdsong and friends laughing seems mundane and worthless when we can conjure  whatever kind of pre-packaged emo­tional stim­u­lation we desire with our phones. And why look at the real leaves on the real trees if someone took (and edited) a really nice autumn picture? The content on smart­phones only actually exists as many dif­ferent, very small lights. Of course the tree pic­tured does exist, but the picture is not the tree. It is not the smells, roots, or habitat, the growing and living thing. 


An ety­mology is helpful here: “media” is the Latin word for “middle,” or, in other words, the thing or space sep­a­rating two other things. Every­thing on a smart­phone is mediated reality; that is to say, not real. We are often dis­sat­isfied with our worlds when they don’t match the idyllic (read: fab­ri­cated) worlds we see on Instagram; the real, living colors of the earth don’t seem to match up to the edited, altered, and mediated repro­duction.  


In actu­ality, the reality around us is better than the con­structed, mediated reality that we can control, pre­cisely because it is more real and outside of our control.


Smart­phones change, for the worse, the way we encounter art. We are so inun­dated with the most vibrant colors, sharpest lines, and highest res­o­lution through phones, that paintings and real life seem banal. It used to be that men would weep at the sight of a beau­tiful painting, or even convert at the glory of an icon. Nev­ermind that it took weeks, months, years to perfect that painting. We’d rather swipe through TikTok videos and mind­lessly scroll through Facebook.


When we con­stantly have earbuds in, music is devalued sim­i­larly to visual art. We use music for mental and emo­tional stim­u­lation too often, and it is reduced from beau­tiful art to a kind of drug. Don’t get me wrong: I love music, but learning to sit in silence and appre­ciate it makes music more mean­ingful.


We think thoughts less the more time we waste on smart­phones. The kind of thinking to which I am referring is not how to respond to this text or that. The neglected way of thinking is the wrestling with our­selves, our thoughts, and our emo­tions. If there are always dis­trac­tions in our ears, eyes, and hands, there are always bar­riers in our minds to thinking good thoughts. It’s a dif­ficult enough task to merely live; how much more dif­ficult when you cannot sit alone with your own thoughts? 


Con­stant stim­u­lation, be it visual, aural, or that feeling when you get a “like,” is not good for anyone. It cheapens the real sen­sa­tions, the beauty of the sounds in the woods and colors of leaves, and the real love from real friends who are right next to you. Use smart­phones, but do not allow them to use you. Spend your time and your love wisely. Real life is a good thing — don’t waste any of it.



Danny Rognlie is a senior studying English.