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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Being stuck on smartphones distracts users from world

Smartphone Distraction

Francis Emelogu/The Cougar

Everyone is familiar with the sense of dread that accompanies the realization that you have somehow managed to leave home without your lifeline to the outside world. Beads of sweat instantly appear on the forehead as you pat your pockets or scour the depths of your purse in a state of sheer panic. However, if you can accept these fits of anxiety, you may actually be better off on the days that this little gadget is left behind.

Cellphone users, regardless of age, do their best to convince themselves that they must have their phones with them at all times for reasons of safety, but this may not be the case. Admittedly, it can be terrifying to think of getting stranded in unknown surroundings without the benefit of the phone’s GPS capability or getting stuck in a jam without a way to call for help.

These are valid concerns, but the reality is that of the hour or so that Experian estimates the average user spends on a phone every day, functions like GPS account for less than 2 percent of total use. So, if smartphones aren’t being used for what people say they are needed for, it makes one wonder what are users doing with this hour each day.

According to the numbers provided by Experian, this hour is lost to a whole bunch of nothing. The combination of social networking and surfing the web — 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively — take up a fairly big portion of one’s time, but that doesn’t come as too big of a shock. What is surprising is that phones are still used primarily for speaking with others, using this function 26 percent of the time. This percentage may be accurate as it applies to the study at hand, but it is also misleading — Experian measured the minutes invested in each activity, not the frequency.

It makes a certain amount of sense that talking took up the most time in the study since conversations are typically time-consuming, while texting, which registered 20 percent,  is relatively quick. Snapping a “selfie” can be done in a mere second, but how much time it takes is not as significant as how often it occurs. In other words, the frequency of the activity is probably more telling than duration alone.

“Even when I think I am doing something to save time, like sending a text rather than talking on the phone, it ends up being more of a distraction,” said English graduate student Sadie Hash. “Instead of a five-minute phone conversation, it turns into 20 minutes of my phone buzzing every couple of minutes.”

No matter what the activity is that is bringing a phone to our faces, these seemingly small distractions add up to one big source of interference with our lives.

This was the same conclusion of a New York restaurant whose owners were left flummoxed in the face of negative reviews regarding the speed of their service. In effort to turn the situation around, the management increased the number of wait staff during peak hours and decreased the number of offerings on its menu.

However, despite the changes, the negative reviews continued to roll in.  The restaurant, which remains anonymous, felt that it might be time to focus its attention on their patrons, instead of their staff, as to the source of their allegedly slow service. The restaurant reviewed security camera footage from their 2004 archive and compared it side-by-side to current recordings. What the comparison found was that from being seated to paying the check, meal times had nearly doubled in the last 10 years.

Even though they were serving the same number of guests, the dining experience — which once lasted about 65 minutes on average — had ballooned to 115 minutes. The footage revealed that diners and their cellphones dictated the speed of service, not the staff.

“Instead of serving food, many waitresses are called upon to take group shots of diners and even return food that has gone cold because diners are taking pictures of their dishes,” the owners said.

Unfortunately, the sight of diners invested in their phones instead of the other parties at their table is a sight that is becoming far from unusual. Theatre junior Austin Abernathy said he is accustomed to seeing individuals on cellphones during dinner, but he is not immune to its annoyance.

“It’s annoying to see (dates) on their cellphones instead of interacting with each other,” Abernathy said. “It’s okay to check your phone every now and then, but it’s frustrating to see people in front of one another who aren’t really present.”

Not only is it rude to engage with your phone rather than with the people around you, as Abernathy pointed out, it’s also likely to be a waste of time.

Furthermore, according to Business Insider, a majority of the tasks that begin on a phone aren’t completed. That means that after taking countless pictures of dinner, selecting the right filter and coming up with the perfect caption, the picture will probably never be published on whatever social media outlet it was intended for.

Therefore, for the sake of those around you, put down the cellphone already and get back this hour. No one but you really cares about what you’re having for dinner, anyway.

Opinion columnist Jonathan Bolan is an English graduate student and may be reached at [email protected].

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