Have you ever experienced a sudden burst of laughter from someone beside you, and when you turn your head, that person is just watching his or her cell phone without realizing that he or she is in public and disturbs others? Have you ever paid attention to what people around you are doing when waiting for a bus, sitting in the subway, or even before a meal comes to the table? How many of them are holding a smartphone with eyes focused on the screen and fingertips busy dancing back and forth on the touch panel, and never get bored? With the development of 3G and wireless technology, cell phones are no longer restricted to simple communications such as calling or texting. After the appearance of smartphones, things like surfing the Internet, socializing, taking photos or even FaceTime can be done instantly in your hand.
Smartphones are becoming parts of many people’s lives. These days, a new phenomenon named “smartphone addiction” has emerged. In fact, recently in China, the spread of smartphones has attracted more and more young people into the world of virtual Internet at the expense of their interaction with real world relationships; it has also aroused heated discussions on whether or not we should take some actions on limiting this tendency. As a matter of fact, even though smartphones have created a more convenient life and have also changed our way of communication in a digital era, the improper use of smartphones is problematic in our daily lives, and the public should be aware of this. It is necessary for the Chinese to pay serious attention to the excessive dependence on smartphones, and try to lessen the negative influence of smartphones in our daily interpersonal relationships.
Before talking about the impacts, we have to take a look at the smartphone market in China. According to the new figures from International Data Corporation, IDC’s worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker, China’s share of the global smartphone market will rise to 20.7%, up from 18.2% in 2011 (Moscaritolo). Wong Teck Zhung, the senior market analyst with IDC’s Asia/ Pacific client devices team, stated that “[Chinese] smartphone shipments [were] expected to take a slim lead over the U.S. in 2012[, and there would] be no turning back this leadership changeover” (qtd. in Moscaritolo). This change in leadership means that China will become the leading country-level market for smartphones. Moreover, China even “overtook the UK and became the second largest country in application downloads.
A quarter of ‘Angry Birds’ global downloads lies in China. In 2011, 613,445 applications were available in China, 74% of which were free versus 25% globally” (“China at your fingertips”). By the end of the second quarter of 2012, smartphone users in China have hit 290 million, while among them, 59% lies in the age group 18-34 (“Q2 2012”), as indicated from the report released by Iimedia which is the largest telecom and wireless consulting institution in China. Therefore, young people have become major smartphone customers. In terms of the way people communicating, the smartphone revolution constitutes a second major milestone after the Internet. The report from Iimedia shows that by the end of this June, the amount of China mobile Internet users has topped 388 million (“Q2 2012”). For the first time in Chinese history, mobile Internet users have gone beyond PC netizens, and turn into the biggest Internet terminal.
Since China has become the world’s largest country of smartphone consumption, Chinese are engaging more than ever with electronic media which is represented by smartphones. It is worth taking a closer look to see how dependent Chinese people are upon their smartphones through some data from a film clip done by GroupM Interaction which is the global leading media investment management group:
More than 500 Chinese magazines have more digital downloads than traditional circulation. Single-day mobile transactions on Taobao during its “12.12” promotion topped RMB 200 million, while 1 in 5 Taobao users accesses the site via mobile. 2011 mobile e-commerce in China reached RMB 11.5 billion. Westerners pray before eating, while 67% of Chinese take photos and post them on-line. Smartphone users check their mobile phones every 6 minutes. 38% of smartphone users spend more than 5 hours a day on their phone. Mobile is the new cigarette. 92% of youth use their mobile phones on the toilet. Each day over 1,000 people start a new romantic relationship via their mobile phones. (“China at your fingertips”)
Based on the information above, it is not difficult to see that many people have become too engaged with smartphones. As a result, this heavy engagement has led to the unique dependence on smartphones and, consequently, causes Chinese people’s addiction to them. A new study from the University of Maryland asked 200 students to undertake a 24-hour media-free assignment including their smartphones, and the conclusion found “that most college students [were] not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the world” (“Students Addicted to Social Media”). Here is what the project director Susan D. Moeller, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland and the director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda which conducted the study, notes:
We were surprised by how many students admitted that they were “incredibly addicted” to media… The students did complain about how boring it was [to] go anywhere and do anything without being plugged into music on their MP3 players, [b]ut what they spoke about in the strongest terms was how their lack of access to text messaging, phone calling, instant messaging, email and Facebook, meant that they couldn’t connect with friends who lived close by, much less those far away (qtd. In “Students Addicted to Social Media”).
After 24 hours abstinence, the students’ responses show “that students’ lives are wired together in such ways that opting out of that communication pattern would be tantamount to renouncing a social life” (“Students Addicted to Social Media”). Many students did not even realize how much their cell phones had meant to them. In a British study, 36% of the students claimed that they cannot be separated from their cell phones (Ji). Medical authorities are even considering “whether to designate Internet addiction as a disease in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (Shelton). In fact, not just the U.S, China is under the same situation of this marvelous smartphone addiction. A research
done by a multinational market research company, Synovateon, observed 8,
;[lm000 people from all over 11 countries, and found out that people from China and Singapore had the most obvious smartphone-obsessed symptoms (Ji).
Due to the fact that almost everyone around is suffering the same condition more or less, many people in China do not consider this addiction as a severe problem. However, smartphone addiction does become influential in our daily life and affect people’s interpersonal relationship subconsciously. These days, plenty of people interrupt social conversations to check messages on their mobile devices. More and more Chinese like to take out their cell phones while gathering with friends. Looking at cell phones from time to time has become a major habit for many people in China. Barry S. Fagin, a professor of computer science, once declared that “the Internet has a strong potential to adversely affect social relationships” (Fagin). With today’s rapid growth of smartphones and wireless technology, Barry’s opinion cannot be more proper.
Recently, Mr. Zhang, a citizen from Tsingtao, together with his brother went to visit their grandfather. While the old man tried to talk many times at the table, the children in front were all concentrating on their smartphones until he broke a plate with a long face, and asked them to go eat with their cell phones (Ji). More unfortunately, this case is not singular. People have entertaining conversations with strangers online via smartphones, whereas being mean to daily face-to-face talks. Chinese people are easily giving up their real life affection because of a little smartphone. I have heard my friend saying that let Siri be your friend, but then, what about your real friends?
Even so, some may still argue that just like the Internet, smartphones have brought the whole world even closer and have made it possible for instant communication. With nowadays boom in technology, with smartphones and our access to the Internet being so easy, the possibility of information access from anywhere at any time means that distance might not be so important and obvious like it was. As an international student studying abroad, FaceTime does allow me to contact my family and friends over the Pacific wherever I want as long as we are both awake and have an iPhone in hand. The appearance of smartphones might seem to have reduced the distance between people.
Nevertheless, it is not totally true. Studies have shown that “most people still keep in touch with their personal group of friends and social network in the real life via the Internet and phones” (Ji). A man in the U.S. will not be attracted by any Chinese home pages on Facebook, while a Chinese, in most cases, is not interested in reading in English as well. There is not too much for smartphones to contribute in bringing the world closer for many people. Instead, they make the distance even further, not physically, but mentally. Just like an online rearrangement of a proverb goes, “the furthest distance in the world is not between life and death, but when I stand in front of you, yet you are playing with your cell phone” (qtd. in Ji).
In the research conducted by the University of Maryland, a student wrote: “Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort. When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable”(“Students Addicted to Social Media”). This information is dangerous. Getting used to smartphones makes people even more lonely and isolated from the real world. People, especially the young generation tends to focus too much on their smartphones, which is partly a result of their fear of self-loneliness and the lack of the ability of being alone. If things continue in this way, people are losing the ability of daily interpersonal communicating.
A study done by Stanford University shown that “every other hour people spend in front of their computers, they would cut at least 30 minutes’ face-to-face communications” (Ji), and the same happens to smartphones. This fact has made researchers worried about “the neural circuit which controls people’s ability of face-to-face communication will degenerate, thus decreasing the neurotransmitters in the brain and even losing the whole function of this part” (Ji). With time goes on, human will lose the ability of identifying the hidden meaning behind a certain expression or language from others, which we achieved from a long time evolution. If this worry ever came true, it would be the biggest tragedy in the digital era.
So, after talking all above, what can be done to eliminate this addiction and help the Chinese to find better ways for using their smartphones? Experts suggested that people should take some mandatory measures (“Experts”). A game played by my friends might be able to provide some good advice. Every time hanging out for meals, we will put all of our phones in the center of the table, and whoever is the first one to reach his or her cell phone during the meal is going to pay for everyone. Besides, sports and outdoor exercises will also help. People, especially in China where they normally stay indoors with nice air-conditioning and comfortable equipment, should open themselves to more outdoor activities. When doing something outdoor, being enveloped under the bright sunshine, sweating a little bit, and completely enjoying yourself, you will find no reason to keep addicted to your smartphones. Compared to the beauty of nature, nothing really matters.
There is nothing wrong with falling in love with your smartphones. However, the Chinese have to realize the effect this love may bring on to them. The improper use of smartphones not only has negative influence on themselves in real life relationships, but it is also not respectful to others. In the modern world, of course we cannot live without smartphones, but we can do something more fun. Find what you like instead of smartphones, go for it, and enjoy yourself. Smartphones are just tools, not our complete life. Do not let them take over all our joy of life.
China at your fingertips. Dir. Tony Chen. Prod. Bessie Lee. GroupM Interaction, 2012. Film Clip.
“Experts teach you how to get rid of your cell phone addiction”. Medpharm & Health 9 (2012): 5-5. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
Fagin, Barry S. “The Internet Makes Distance Matter Less for Good and Ill”. The Internet. Ed. Gary Wiener. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. 22-28. Print.
Ji, Guoliang. “The Furthest Distance in the World”. City National Newspaper 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 13. Nov. 2012.
Moscaritolo, Angela. “China to Overtake U.S. as Top Smartphone Market in 2012”. PC Magazine Mar 2012: 1-1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
“Q2 2012 Chinese Smartphone Market Monitoring Report”. Iimedia (2012): n.pag. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
Shelton, Jim. “Hi, I’m (insert name here), and I’m a Facebook addict”. New Haven Register 10 Mar. 2012. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.
“Students Addicted to Social Media- New UM Study”. University of Maryland Newsdesk 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
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