Smartphone Addiction: Instant Gratification

I was visiting an ex-girlfriend's university back in 1999 and I had a Nokia 1xxx series cellphone to keep me company. I was doing pro bono work and while waiting for my co-worker, ended up playing the black-and-white version of Worms on the monochrome mobile phone. Playing mobile games on phones was at its infancy in the late 90s, but it was nonetheless an activity to pass the time when you were on a queue. Suffice to say, I only played mobile games when I was absolutely bored. I'm awful at mobile games even back then, but I was doing all right that day in 1999. I yelped in public when my worm inevitably died. Two co-eds in the room giggled and that was pretty much the last time I ever played a mobile game in public (or elsewhere for that matter).


The monochrome candy bar device was a gift from my then-girlfriend. I vehemently protested when she gave me the once popular Nokia device, claiming that as a loner I didn't need a mobile phone (which is somewhat true to this day). In retrospect, she probably purchased the product to keep tabs on me. Perhaps my lack of interest in mobile phones (and lack of style in general), led her to give me a Nokia 5xxx series phone with a colored screen a couple of years later (and then in another relationship a Nokia E63, which was my last non-smartphone). After a few other failed relationships over the last decade or so, I now look at a mobile phone warily as a source of arguments and reasons to end a relationship even though I'm now firmly entrenched in the software and hardware IT industry.

Two generations of Nokia phones

Are you a smartphone addict?

Fast-forward to 2015 and I recently wondered if I'm a smartphone addict. If drinking a cup of coffee four or five times a week is a mild coffee addiction, then I'm a mild smartphone addict. Since I work in the tech industry, I'm obligated to keep up with the latest mobile and desktop software and own a Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 10 tablet, laptop and smartphone. However, I realize the only time I really end up picking up my smartphone(s) is when I switch on Mobile Data.

When I have my Mobile Data enabled (which I disable when I'm at home), I feel like I'm not using the data I'm paying for every month if I don't at least pull up the latest news or check if I have WeChat messages. Truth be told, I never have any urgent need to unlock my Lumia 925 or Xperia C2 Dual, but thinking about the prepaid amount I shelled out does make me wish I used my smartphone for data more often when I'm outdoors. The only other reason why I access my smartphone is when I need to write notes for my next article here at Unsolicited But Offered.

I do understand why today's generation is addicted to smartphones, however, since this is the generation of instant gratification. Why wait when you have a smartphone in your hands? To wit:

1. Why wait to buy a newspaper or magazine when you can open an app like MSN News, Apple News, News Republic or Flipboard?
2. Why wait to get home and play with your console or take out a handheld gaming device when your smartphone has fun, interesting and interactive games?
3. Why make the effort to meet people in public places like bars and libraries when you can open a dating app and hook up (sorry, but that's amazingly pathetic, Millennials)?
4. Why lug around an excellent prosumer digital camera and fiddle with the SD card, manual controls and keep the battery charged when you have your smartphone's camera?
5. Why bother to have a notebook and pen when your note-taking app and/or your stylus is accessible with a quick unlock of your smartphone?
6. Why withdraw from the ATM and put cold, hard cash in your wallet when you have NFC or payment apps on your device?
7. Why walk over to the cute co-worker with a sexy librarian-thing-going if you can ping her over a chat or instant messaging app?
8. Why bother to access files securely on your laptop or workstation when you can funnel the files through VPN or a cloud storage service app on your smartphone?
9. Why wait to get home and watch movies or listen to music on capable entertainment hardware when you can stream videos or music while you're commuting to work?
10. Why wait to get access to a full laptop, desktop or Ethernet/Wi-Fi connection when you have a mobile data plan and a touchscreen with a touchscreen-optimized browser?
10. Why look at yourself in the mirror in the privacy of your home or the toilet when you can take photos of yourself on the go and feed your vanity while letting others on the Internet know what a self-centered idiot you are? (I hate selfies and narcissistic egotistic morons addicted to selfies).
11. Why focus on your food when you can surf the Internet, visit Facebook and Twitter while eating? (Again, pretty pathetic but you'd be surprised to see how many people do this)

On vacation in a park in Beijing and still on a smartphone.

My professor used to emphasize the necessity of delayed gratification, which not only builds character but helps you understand the value of things like money, time, entertainment and possessions. Unfortunately, the instant gratification that smartphones provide has largely destroyed the concept of delayed gratification.


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