I’ve been wearing a watch for almost five years now. Most people I know don’t wear watches or even own a watch, especially other millennials. My apartment doesn’t have a clock anywhere on the walls, and my room doesn’t have an alarm clock next to my bed. The clock on the oven always seems to be an hour off. I’m sure that schools are still teaching kids how to read time, but will they learn if they never have to look at clocks?
These days, everyone looks at their phones so often they always know the time. If it’s not their phone, it’s the computer they stare at all day. We don’t get warned to ‘turn back the clocks’ anymore, they all seem to switch themselves. Maybe that’s why my oven clock is always wrong.
I wear a watch because looking at my phone can be rude, but I may still need to know the time. George Bush Sr. famously checked his watch at the wrong time. Imagine he had pulled out his phone.
I have a smartphone, and I use it more than I would like to admit. Recently, I changed my settings and it’s changed my life. I stopped getting notices every time I receive an email or message. When someone recommends my story or comments on my picture, it sits on the web, waiting for me. I like showing people what I’m up to, but I don’t need to give them a direct line to my pocket.
64% of American adults own a smartphone. I don’t know a single adult who doesn’t have one. In 2015, one third of those owners used their phone ‘frequently for breaking news’. I’m sure that figure is higher in 2016. I doubt we’d all agree on what qualifies as ‘breaking news’. There’s a lot of talk following the election about ‘fake news’, as if the election results can be cast onto some hooligan spreading bogus stories. Surely fake news doesn’t make things more clear, but a smoking gun for our disregard for facts? I doubt it.
I think the smartphone has lowered our intelligence. There’s a lot of nonsense on the internet, most of it created by amateurs and digestible on a smartphone. It’s almost always free, aside from a few well targeted ads. I bet you’re on a phone right now.
Too many people only read things that were created very quickly and can be consumed very quickly. Facebook posts only take a moment. Same with Tweets and Snaps and any other media you can finish before the barista makes your latte. I think we should start telling people how much effort went into these creations, like nutrition labels. That way we can have a knowledge pyramid, like the food pyramid, that tells us what to read each day. Tweets can go at the top.
The world hasn’t gotten more urgent since the iPhone came out, but somehow our lives have. When you ask people why they put their phone on the table while eating, they might say they’re waiting on something important. Forty important words? An album of important photos? Maybe they just want to keep an eye on the time. I’d suggest they get a watch.