Cellphones constantly remain in our hands, making many wonder if people could survive without them. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA SHVETS

Shaun Lucas

At the beginning of the semester, I dropped my phone in water, completely engulfing it for a few seconds. Upon taking it out of the water, I dried it the best I could with a paper towel, placed it in a container full of rice, then hoped for the best. Initially, the phone struggled to stay on, making me fearful that I would be without a phone until I could get it fixed or buy a new one.

But why did the potential loss of my phone, one that I have had for a few years and is cracked and barely functioning evening before going for a swim, filled me with so much anxiety so quickly?

Beyond the financial loss that comes with replacing any electronics, losing a smartphone means losing a lot of freedoms: without a phone, I wouldn’t be able to receive and make calls or texts, nor have other functions such as checking the time throughout the day. I am directionally challenged, so the GPS on my phone is used more often than I would care to admit. Being able to search up information without pulling my laptop out is nice, as well.

While these are luxuries of my smartphone, some functions are needed to even start my day. One major example is that without my phone, I could not login to my school email and D2L, as I could not send myself a verification code. Many people have had this issue before, such as when leaving their phone at home or in the car.

With my phone initially struggling to work at all, my mind raced into thoughts of immediately finding a new phone, emailing professors that I would be unable to see assignments, and finding alternative ways to contact family and friends until I got a new phone. All these fears and inconveniences in the matter of a few seconds had me thinking about how living without a smartphone is becoming more and more challenging.

In my consumer behavior class, we discussed how smartphones are designed to be as addictive as possible, as the more attention we give to our phones, the more exposure advertisements get and thus the more money people spend. With 76 percent of all Americans reporting buying items through their phone, per Pew Research Center in 2021, social media is a valuable marketing opportunity.

The issue is that as more features get added to our phones, the more people’s dependency on them grows. In other words, many people are not learning the “good old fashioned” ways of doing tasks. I have never had to read a map to get somewhere, nor had to remember complex verbal directions, resulting in my current dependency on GPS.

With mobile functions becoming integrated in more daily functions, such as scanning one’s phone to pay for groceries or using augmented reality (AR) in a supermarket to better locate said groceries, our dependency on devices will continue to grow. 

While I am not anti-smart phone, more dependency also means more opportunities for our information to be given to data collectors. But getting rid of or losing your smartphone means losing more luxuries and necessities as time goes on. Privacy in the digital era is practically an illusion, and there is not much people can do about it.