The Biological Smartphone
Remember the days when you had a mobile phone but sometimes left it at home, on purpose? Or turned it off in a drawer, because you had an essay to write? I might as well be talking about the pre-industrial age rather than the early Twenty-First Century, so inconceivable is this concept nowadays; even for those of us who lived as young adults back then.
I’ve always been a Romantic, a lover of history, stories, books and nature. I am also something of a city girl, having lived several unforgettable years in a couple of the capitals of Europe. But these epochs were pre-smart phone, and I sometimes think that my memories of these times and the deep impressions they have made on me are the result of having truly lived them.
I remember moving to Madrid in 2007. I had never been there before, and I arrived with a suitcase and a travel guide, complete with folding paper map. The apartment I shared with three other girls didn’t even have the Internet for the first four months we lived there, never mind high speed wifi! And so I lived real life. I rarely ventured out without my paper map. I used the Metro, went the wrong way, explored The Retiro and the streets of Malasaña, joining up the dots of the city to create my own internal map. When I got lost I whipped out my paper map or attempted to ask somebody for directions. And I was totally fine. I wasn’t always the fastest at working out where I was on the map, or how to reach my destination, but I could do it. I always got there in the end.
Fast-forward to 2021. There’s wifi everywhere, you can’t even go for a coffee without logging on and losing yourself in your mobile and the infinite worlds/drivel it offers. Almost gone are the days of people watching, or reading a book or writing a post-card. We are passive consumers of information. Information which is harder to retain, given the constant bombardment of it on our saturated brains.
My smartphone makes me feel inept. I seem to have lost the ability to read maps. That tiny, stupid screen, which flips and turns and provides no perspective, no big picture of where I actually am in relation to the rest of the city. These days, when I find myself in unfamiliar territory, you’ll see me on the verge of my favourite four letter word, smartphone in hand, wondering how I am lost in the city I’ve called home for five years. I used to be able to read maps! But with a moment’s reflection, I realise. I can read maps. I just have an issue with Google maps, because it’s not a real map. It’s virtual, and I do much better in the real world.
And here’s the thing, folks. While smartphones can be very useful, they are also making our brains lazy. Not so long ago, we would grab a map, work out the best route to take, and hope for the best. Now Google plans your route, shows you where you are and gives you an ETA. We are letting our brains go soft, like muscles which never lift more than a smartphone charger. This is backed up by research, which shows that smartphones are affecting everything from the way we interact with other humans in real life, to our ability to retain information.
What, I hear you ask, has all this got to do with books? Well, when we read, we actively engage our brains; they create the images and the connect the words with the pictures in our minds. Our brains have to work more than when we simply look at an image or watch TV. So keep your brain active, expand your vocabulary and get lost in a world which will not de-skill you! We have so much for you to choose from.