by Rosie Brown
This past week, The New York Times published an article by consumer advocate Martin Lindstrom on a recent study concerning attachment to smartphones. His team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tests to analyze brain activity as subjects responded to audio and video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone. The results were astounding. The fMRI tests revealed that the feelings of love and compassion were associated with the sound and sight of the iPhone. As Lindstrom wrote, “the subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence … of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.”
Lindstrom argues that humans are at risk of “cutting [themselves] off from human interaction,” but I beg to differ. Based on my own experiences of romance with my iPhone, I can say that when I hear the chime of a new text message awaiting me in my pocket, I am thinking about the loved one on the other end of the line. Improved technology has enabled us to keep up with the fast-paced, globalized society that we have been born into. Let me tell you why smartphones (and other pieces of technology) are so great.
For one, because of technology, we are more able to choose friends of quality over friends of convenience. College presents an opportunity to be exposed to myriad people from different backgrounds, beliefs, experiences — you name it! Ask any college graduate and they will most likely say they met their best friend (or the love of their life) while at college. But how many friendships have been built just because you saw someone every day? What about the friends made at college who, upon graduating, you never spoke to or saw ever again? Technology eliminates that problem and helps true friends stay connected, regardless of distance or dramatic lifestyle changes. For instance, in the past, long-distance relationships have been frowned upon. Now it is a normal occurrence to date someone who lives between 100 and 1,000 miles away. Senior Hollie McCrea has been in a long-distance relationship for four years. They keep the romance alive by talking on the phone every night. “We [also] Skype about once a month or so and text a little bit if something comes up during the day,” McCrea said. “When I was in Costa Rica, though, we wrote Facebook messages back and forth every night and Skyped a couple times a week.” Thanks to technology, quality relationships are able to be kept and nurtured regardless of physical location.
Second, technology provides better means of communication, which leads to closer connections. How many of us have ever texted or Facebook-chatted someone who was across the room, coffee shop or at least within sight? I’m definitely guilty. But even these small forms of interaction help relationships grow. Knowing that someone is thinking of you by writing on your Facebook wall, for example, establishes a stronger connection than if they hadn’t. Not to mention, with college students swamped with schoolwork, deadlines and work shifts, there appears to be little time to socialize and spend an evening with close friends and acquaintances outside of class or meals. A common complaint I have heard is, “Why is Facebook so addicting?” as well as, “How did I end up chatting with my boyfriend for an hour?” My advice: Don’t worry about it. A crucial element to time management is balance and, as human beings, we need to nurture our connections with other people to stay sane. Procrastination via Facebook isn’t procrastination at all when you consider that you are just checking “invest in relationships” off your daily to-do list. So, don’t feel guilty the next time you text your friends during your study session for O-Chem. Feel free to “like” your RA’s status about another all-nighter. It’s the little things that count, and I encourage you to strengthen the friendships you make at college and elsewhere.
Lastly, technology gives us greater opportunities to network and greater access to resources. Technology gives us the opportunity to meet someone once and stay in touch with him or her for life. This is how the great tool of networking was born. For instance, I have more than 700 Facebook friends. I don’t want to brag, but many of these friends are people with whom I want to stay in touch, even if I never see or speak to them, because they may someday need something I can help them with. Furthermore, they might provide me with something in the future that I would not have been lucky to have access to if we had never met and stayed in touch. This can be in the form of a place to stay while traveling out of town, a knowledge base about a subject you are unfamiliar with that just happens to be another person’s hobby, or an invitation to meet an influential public figure in Washington, D.C. Don’t feel bad if you have friends and acquaintances who you don’t see or talk to every day. Because our world is so globally interwoven, it is very unlikely to be able to physically spend time with everyone you know. In light of this, technology such as smartphones and social networking sites are incredible tools in the evolution of community.
My advice to you? Build relationships. Meet new people! Stay in touch with the strangers you meet for only a few minutes. Note that I used the word “meet,” as in, face-to-face. Use technology as a supplement to the human interactions that occur. Don’t feel guilty about loving your iPhone. It’s a much better predicament than not calling your friends and family often enough.