Mobile phone use: plusses and minuses

Mobile phone use: plusses and minuses

We read lots of news about the harmful effects of smartphones, but they can be a good thing, too

For some people, a day without their cell phone would be a nightmare. They might feel lonely because they cannot reach their friends whenever they want. Or they might find that time passes slowly when they have to kill time, such as when they’re waiting for a seat in a popular restaurant.

Yes, your mobile phone is becoming “part of you”. Recent studies have found that some people regard a mobile phone as a “part of the self”. In psychological terms, it is part of a person’s “self-identity”. As such, it is not surprising that some people deliberately show off their newly purchased iPhone, similar to how people might show off an expensive watch.

Many investigations into the possible impact that mobile phones have on people have focused on the negative impact. For instance, psychologists are interested in how the overuse of this technological device could harm our psychological well-being. For example, feeling stressed whenever you hear your phone ringing is a kind of “technostress”. Sociologists and criminologists are concerned that mobile phones could lead to stealing or smuggling. Educators want to know whether the misuse of mobiles could explain why some students perform poorly in school. And social workers want to formulate effective interventions to make sure phones are not harming relationships.

But advocates of positive psychology suggest that phones are not just a negative influence. For instance, evidence indicates that social networking apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram might enhance social bonding between group members, such as by increasing solidarity among family members who cannot meet face-to-face frequently.

In medical settings, apps that remind patients to take prescribed medicine on time, or evaluate a drug’s effectiveness, show promise.

So is a mobile phone a “plus” or a “minus”? If you can use your phone wisely, you can derive positives. Otherwise, if you get a “loss” due to its use, it will be a “minus” for you!

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Plusses and minuses of mobiles

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