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5 Ways Smartphones Make You Dumb


We now live in an era where you have a computer in your pocket. iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, whatever you use, you "have the world at your fingertips."

While this can be incredibly empowering, convenient and just plain cool, it can also be a distraction and an issue when it comes to face-to-face relationships.

Here are 5 ways that I believe smartphones are making us dumb:

  1. Smartphones promote isolation and undermine personal relationships. There is a commercial running on TV that touts the great benefits of connectivity using a smartphone. It makes fun of a dad, sitting between his two daughters. The daughters are on their smartphones, and he says: "are you two texting each other?!" They answer: "YES!" and roll their eyes. While some see this as humorous, I see this as sad and a great illustration of how smartphones are causing us to disconnect from one another. We are all guilty of watching TV or talking to a friend and also checking our phones for the "oh so important" update on Facebook, via text or email. Think about it and change it. Leave your smartphone in the other room when you're having a conversation. Meeting someone for coffee? Have the phone on the table, but face down so you’re not distracted. My wife and I now have "no electronics Saturday" where we only have our phones with us in case of an emergency call from a loved one. Otherwise, no social media, no texts (that aren't important) just plain old fashioned conversations!

  2. Smartphones cause us to think for ourselves less Does this sound familiar? "I'll look it up on my phone," or "I read that on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn..." (With the implication that it must be true.) Don't get me wrong, as a marketing consultant I rely heavily on information available on the web. BUT, I also read newspapers, books, watch documentaries, and find other ways to gather information. Heck, I still go to the library and bookstores - the ones that are made of bricks - not on the internet! By relying on social media for all of our information, we lose the ability to think and research for ourselves. Smartphones have just exasperated this because they are so convenient to use and "handy."

  3. Because we have smartphones, we aren't trying to solve problems Want to install an app on your phone? There's a tutorial for that. Have an issue with a computer/appliance or something in your home? Look it up on your smartphone. Again, I don't believe this is a bad thing as a whole; But it does cause us to stop thinking for ourselves and trying to find a solution on our own. We begin to believe that without online help, we can't solve a problem. Try to think of it the other way. Have a problem? Try and fix it yourself first or call a friend), THEN go on your smartphone and get some help.

  4. Smartphones cause us to be poor writers I can't tell you how many times I have cringed when someone sent me a business email or text via their smartphone with misspelled words, bad (forget poor) grammar or acronyms that make sense only if you're still in high school. STOP!!! Write like a professional. Consider that HOW you communicate is almost as important at WHAT you communicate. Smartphones enable this behavior. On my Android phone I have a program that allows me to move my finger over the keyboard and write out words. It is a killer app and a time saver, but it also makes me lazy and causes me to shorten texts (and emails), and thus makes me appear less professional.

  5. Smartphones (ironically) cause us to use the phone for calls less Is communicating through texts, emails, and instant messages on social media staying in touch with friends and loved ones? Sure. But, in my opinion it takes some of the human elements out of relationships. Yes, you can "hear" inflections in these forms of communication, but not in the same way you can if you call a friend and hear their voice.

It fascinates me that the new "disruptive" way to reach clients and prospects is to pick up the phone!

But, it is true. It's become unusual to talk to a client on the phone on a regular basis. I do it with one client in particular, who frankly reminded me that this form of communication was more personal and therefore more powerful.

Do I hate smartphones? No, direct opposite. Unless of course they don't work and cause me technological headaches!

But I do believe they mute our emotional connections with others and cause us to think for ourselves less.

We need to connect with each other better in order to truly understand each other. That doesn't come in the form of an emoticon or an avatar. That can only happen through one-on-one personal communications.

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Chuck Hester is the Chief Communications Officer for Big Think Innovation, a business architect consultancy that helps companies plan, grow and build their futures. He is also a LinkedIn trainer and speaker, helping businesses get the most out of LinkedIn, while teaching them how to communicate effectively. Contact him directly at chuck@bigthinkresults.com.

Need help with LinkedIn? Feel free to message Chuck and ask about one-on-one and group LinkedIn Executive Training.