It feels like I am inundated with articles about how today's teens aren't social or mature enough or some other patronizing nonsense. Amongst the most common gripes is the complaint that kids these days spend so much time on their smartphones that they are becoming dumber.
This is simplified, reactionary nonsense. While I agree that staring at a screen at 4 a.m. is not the healthiest thing, pigeonholing an entire generation into that one stereotype neglects to consider a whole bunch of other reasons why people might choose to have their phones in hand.
For one thing, phones are simply a means of communication. I, for one, think it is lovely that I can call my friend halfway across the world to chat about the newest Bollywood movie, coordinate a budget meeting, and spam my siblings with stupid superhero memes at the same time. We are busier nowadays, but some of us thrive in the constant state of organized chaos.
Smartphones, with their myriad scheduling and communication applications, are absolutely indispensable for us.
Some of us also use our phones as a lightweight, omnipresent journal. It's a perfect place to jot down poems, story ideas, and funny observations for later perusal. Thanks to cloud connectivity, we don't have to worry about our writing becoming lost or damaged by the elements. It's also much, much less cumbersome than having boxes full of papers and notebooks. In fact, I wrote this entire article on my phone.
Smartphones are also instruments of information dissemination with activists and reporters using them to document world events in real time. Videos can be streamed across the word in a matter of seconds, making first-hand eyewitness accounts much more accessible. For every terrible Microsoft Paint attempt at a meme, we have footage of people making a difference in the world.
One a more serious note, there is also a pretty big gendered component. For many girls and women, it Is a defense mechanism. By putting headphones in our ears and a screen in front of our face, we send a silent message of unavailability. Guys who may otherwise try and accost us unwantedly see us disengaged and are less likely to bother us.
And if they do try to catcall us, we usually can't hear them.
On a more lighthearted note, is it really so wrong to want to do a BuzzFeed quiz or use a dating app? Even if we are not using our phones to save the world, we shouldn't be shamed for enjoying technology. We use them for art, entertainment, communication, science, information, the list goes on. It is human nature to be fascinated by the novel and that is exactly what smartphones are.
Besides, people used to spend hours listening to the radio. Now we spend hours listening to podcasts. The only difference is the size of the box.