In addition to providing a constant link with friends, family and coworkers, modern smartphones integrate a wide variety of other functions into one compact package. These sophisticated devices have affected people’s lives in many ways, both positive and negative.
Browse any selection of smartphones and you will notice that nearly every model boasts a high-resolution camera as one of its features. Adding a camera to the cell phone has turned every consumer into a photographer, vastly increasing the rate at which people document their lives visually.
In addition to greatly increasing the number of mundane pictures people take of their everyday surroundings, smartphone pictures and video have served as first-line coverage of breaking news events as they happen. Some of the earliest coverage of major incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 came in the form of smartphone videos shared over the Internet and with broadcast news channels.
Smartphones have also greatly influenced the way people work. Modern smartphones are mobile computers, many capable of running stripped-down versions of Office programs.
This allows a worker to transact business anywhere he can receive a signal, greatly increasing his productivity, while also allowing the workplace to intrude into his personal life. With a smartphone, you may never truly be away from your desk, and the psychological effects of being constantly “on call” may lead to increased stress.
In addition to providing a constant communication lifeline to the outside world, smartphones also contain other features that can save your life in a crisis. Many smartphones feature a GPS receiver built-in to the unit, and this can prove extremely useful if you find yourself lost or in need of assistance.
In February of 2010, a man named Alvin Robinson kidnapped two men and attempted to rob them. While the trio was travelling to an ATM to withdraw money, one of the men activated his cell phone and opened a line to the police department. The authorities were able to track the phone using its GPS receiver, and arrived at the bank in time to arrest the kidnapper.
Smartphones can also have negative effects, and some researchers worry that constantly using them may lead to significant health problems. In South Korea, a study showed that constant access to smartphones and other devices at a young age might hinder the natural development of parts of the brain associated with memory, causing a condition doctors call “digital dementia.”
Over time, sufferers lose the ability to remember simple things like phone numbers and may suffer shortened attention spans. In the United Kingdom, doctors report a 35 percent increase in cases of myopia since 1997, blaming the vision disorders on the tiny screens on smartphones and the eyestrain caused by long-term use.