Is Mobile Technology Making Us Anxious?

Mobile technology has cured boredom; there’s no doubt about that. Between checking emails, logging into each of your Social Networking Sites to check for updates and notifications, using any of the millions of apps and games, anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or ereader on them is going to be constantly stimulated, never suffering from those boring waits we all hate. Sounds great, right?

Think about it: when you’re stuck in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, enter a long line at the store, have 30 minutes until the next bus comes, find yourself with a few seconds before class starts, or even just make it to the restaurant before the friend you’re meeting…How long does it take you to pull out your phone (or tablet, ereader, etc.)? My bet is it happens pretty fast. For most of us, it’s second-nature.

In fact, I was amazed when I went through Customs last weekend, a strict no-cell-phone-zone, how many people—including myself—were tempted to ignore the rules and persistent nagging from officers to “put away your phones.”

What, besides intense boredom, are we robbing ourselves of with these quick-fixes of stimulation? First, reflection. By filling every gap of time between our daily activities, we spend less and less time looking back what we’ve done—unless of course you’re recounting your day for the purposes of that Facebook status or tweet. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone journal. Reflection can also apply to our lessons or what we witness happening around us. Another underrated time-filler: observation. When you’re on your cell phone between destinations, how likely are you to remember how you got there or what you saw on the way? Or maybe you just need to zone-out; that’s often the source of many great ideas. It sounds simple, yes, but maybe our mind deserves this break from technology.

Without a doubt, these technologies have enabled us to utilize these previously “wasted minutes” by keeping up on emails, news, and work, which is one of their greatest advantages. But does that mean we now feel compelled to fill every second of our day with such things? What’s wrong with sitting and essentially doing nothing for fifteen minutes? I can’t even remember the last time I did.

Sometimes this problem transcends even occupying boredom. Jazmyn brought up texting and driving; surely there is adequate mental stimulation while driving that we aren’t so bored we are forced to get on our phones?! What about those people, or maybe friends you have, who are on their phones for no apparent reason while you’re hanging out? Assuming they aren’t merely bored with you, why do they do it?

This makes me wonder if we are truly denying ourselves that mental rest I mentioned previously, or if to some extent, we are incapable. The ability to instantly satisfy our boredom with smart phones or tablets has made us used to constant stimulation. Social Networking Sites and unlimited texting have made us used to always having that connection with our friends, as mentioned in The Human Connection.

Is this baseline of stimulation causing us to feel anxious without it? Are we bothered by that unfilled time? What do you guys think?