Mobile devices have become that uninvited guest who ultimately ends up stealing the show, intrinsically involved in every conversation and silently demanding we take a selfie. Country singer Camille Rae belts out convincingly, “I’m happy when I get the perfect selfie on the first date.” The Notebook take on love is quickly becoming a fossilized concept. Letters are traded for texts and emotions for emoticons. Is this purely the result of living in the 21st century, or do insidious implications lurk?
Long Island, a summer-centric community, riddled with sought after hotspots such as Jones Beach and Montauk Point is seeing a disturbing trend in the rise of youth depression and suicide. Data reported by the New State Department of Health has noted a steady increase in suicide rates, particularly in young to middle age adults who rely heavily on mobile device usage. Phones have evolved exponentially from Alexander Graham Bells’ 1876 invention, which has indubitably saved countless lives and merged others separated by geographical divides.
The issue seems to stem not so much from our reliance, but from the addiction. Susan DeVito, a licensed addiction therapist with over 19 years of experience in the field, serves as an outreach coordinator at Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services in Hicksville. Working amongst individuals with a wide spectrum of addiction issues has given her invaluable insight into a possible correlation.
“We have to acknowledge that culture has changed, yet cellphone addiction is not acknowledged by society because everyone does it,” she said. “Addiction becomes a problem when it starts to affect your various psychosocial life areas such as preventing you from having to deal with your conscience.”
It’s becoming all too common to see someone filming a catastrophe instead of coming to the victim’s aid. Our internet audience is taking precedence over our live audience.
Communication is occurring at a more rapid rate then ever before. The availability of social media, largely in part to the smart phone, has created a battle of competing realities: who we really are, versus our portrayal on this forum. Attempting to merge the two creates internal conflict, which ultimately leads to despair. Alysia Sobraj, a recent master’s graduate of John Jay in forensic mental health counseling, outlines the pressures and lure of online image.
“People put up a facade…you get gratification from getting acknowledged,” said Sobraj. This insatiable fixation for gaining more followers or likes can prove a vicious, unrelenting spiral.
It’s frightening to consider how we functioned prior to the existence of the smart phone. We feel for it reassuringly in our pockets. We adorn them in protective cases, mirroring our personalities. We place them gently on the bedside table and search frantically when misplaced. While possessing a healthy respect for the role smart phones play we must be aware of the dangers that becoming addicted can bring. As in any addiction, the results may have cataclysmic repercussions. In the words of the famed Greek physician Hippocrates, “Everything in excess is opposed by nature.” The next time the urge arises to impulsively reach for our phones, perhaps we need to rediscover how to enjoy the moment, hands free.