Robservations: Of smartphone addiction…

Very strongly do I feel, that the smartphone is the most invasive and controlling invention that humans have ever created. We have become mindless slaves to the technology, and it’s a sad sight to behold.

Don’t get me wrong. I find my smartphone to be as invaluable as the next man (or woman), but one thing I don’t do is let it rule over me. Sadly however, most people do. The phone companies have us believe that a smartphone is the most essential and most important thing we can have in our lives, and as a society we tend to subscribe to this notion. I’d even go as far as to suggest that we’re lapping it up to such an extent that our addiction is well on its way to uncontrollable.

In his latest book (The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting), Philip Hensher points out how people’s interaction with their phones has changed. He recognises that not so long ago everyone carried their mobiles in their pocket, but now we carry them around in our hand and it’s affecting us greatly, especially when it comes to our interactions within the real world. Take a look around you the next time you’re out and about and you’ll see that the majority are walking around zombie-like with eyes down squinting at a screen, missing all that is going on in the world around them. It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

Worse still, is the extent to which mobile phone addiction these days has caused us to lose our connection with one another in the physical world. Not so long ago we used to go to cafes and restaurants to engage with each other. Now, we view these places more as technology pitstops, where the first thing we do on entering is pull out our phones, laptops, iPads etc, regardless of whether we are in company or not.

It really does sadden me beyond words when I see couples and friends sitting in a cafe together, so engrossed in their smartphones that they’re actually worlds apart. To me there’s nothing ruder than being with someone who seems more interested in their phone than they are with you. It does nothing but give the impression that you’re not important to that person; that they’d rather be somewhere else.

So dear friend, I ask that you think twice the next time you feel the urge to check your phone for the millionth time. Technology is a wonderful thing but it needs to remain a part of our lives, and not our lives in total. Never forget that we live in the real world not a virtual one, and in this world we’re gifted a higher grade of HD than any screen can offer. So please, put your phone away and watch a beautiful world going by in vivid detail.

And when you’re in the company of family, friends and colleagues, turn your phone off and give these people the respect and attention they deserve. You’ll feel a lot better for doing so, and you’ll earn their respect for having given them your undivided attention. It may be ‘no biggie’ these days to be ‘unfollowed’ in the virtual world, but when you lose a friend in the real world it hurts badly. Don’t risk it. Keep your smartphone hidden and spend the time you would have spend mindlessly spent scrolling, making your real world as interactive as your virtual one. You know it makes sense.


This post forms part of an incidental and on-the-spur observational essay series entitled Robservations. In these I endeavour to mainly stick to the subject of reading and writing, but in the spirit of Michel de Montaigne, and with much reverence for him, my thoughts will often be random, wide-ranging and inward looking (much like me as a person then :)).

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. taniahershman says:

    Hear, hear! My partner and I downgraded from smartphones to non-smartphones last year, but I am as guilty as the next person with my ipad and iPod. It does make me sad, but I get twitchy. I don’t like being twitchy!

    • rburdock (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      @taniahershman Twitchy,s not a good way to be is it Tania? Thing is, how much of the twitchiness is of our own making? I know I make myself twitchy often, but have improved of late. Oh..and congrats on the downgrading, although I’m not sure if it’s a ‘cutting off one’s nose’ kind of thing, because smartphones certainly have their use, in the right place and definitely at the right time.

  2. maryomayfield says:

    I haven’t got as far as having a smart phone  or even the unlimited usage sort of contract, so my phone is used rarely.  Teen is addicted though – never switches it off, chats on it all through Tv programmes and DVDs and yes, when out, is always on the look out for free wifi.

  3. Well I just have a dumb phone that only makes phone calls (and text messages, which I never do).  
    I completely agree with you though.  My hub and I went to dinner with a group of his work colleagues a year or so ago and everyone was focused on their phones!  This was the first time I had met any of these people and it did NOT make a good impression!

    • rburdock (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      @bibliosue Dreadful behaviour Sue. Thank heavens they’re not regular friends :). Why can’t people just live the moment, and enjoy each other’s company? 🙁

  4. winstonsdad (Twitter: stujallen)

    I think it is hard rope to walk I was very attached to my phone last year but have start stepping back from it the last few months ,all the best stu

  5. A social movement against gadget addiction is being soft launched right now. An interesting Facebook page named “take back our lives” has been started by a New York based ad man and his friends. The FB page aims to be fun and humorous and not be preachy.

    Please check this FB page . Feel free to “like” the page, “share” the page and bring in as many friends as you wd like. Contribute to the page by sharing your experience/ideas/suggestions/photos/videos.