My iPhone takes up a vast part of my day; I look at it constantly to see if I have a new text, a Facebook “like”, any emails, or just to take a photo. I even pull it out in situations where I feel awkward or I am bored, waiting in line at a Starbucks. As much as I hate to say it, I would have a hard time spending even a few hours without my phone and I it could take me weeks to fully detach myself from my pocket-sized personal computer. Even more devastating, this is the reality for a majority of smartphone users in America. Since our phones consume so much of our time, it would be hard to not acknowledge that they are affecting the way we live and how we live—our culture. The smartphone is seen as a living artifact that symbolizes America and aspects of its culture; specifically, smartphones have a direct effect on our education, behaviors, and values, all of which make up American culture.
I would be lying if I said I have never used my iPhone in class. Mostly, I use it out to look up information by reading an article or webpage related to the topics my teachers are lecturing on. It is an easy way to get more information and to get it quickly (much more painless than hauling around a few textbooks, encyclopedias and computer). Smartphones allow us to change the way we receive information and learn. They directly show that the education aspect of our culture is immensely changing because now, to keep up in class, it is almost necessary to use a smartphone to quickly retrieve data. This demonstrates that we learn more indirectly, as opposed to solely listening to a teacher lecture. On the other hand, I would also be lying if I said students only used their phones during class to learn more about the topic being taught. It is common for students to be on Facebook, twitter, or even on a shopping site. Smartphones allows individuals to do more than one thing at once: shop, tweet, or Facebook stalk while learning about the Greek phalanx or how to graph a parabolic function. Ultimately, smartphones can be seen as altering the education aspect of American culture because it is normal to multitask in an educational atmosphere. Smartphones emphasis the American need of demanding information rapidly and effortlessly.
Sometimes, I can be rude; while out to eat with a friend or my family, I pull out my iPhone. It is not hard to start searching the web as soon as I stop listening to a conversation all together or get bored; I see my friends and family do this just as frequently as myself. The thing is, I didn’t use to find myself getting so distracted while interacting with others, but now that I have a smartphone waiting to be used in my pocket, I find myself thinking about operating it and distract myself from the present conversation and atmosphere. Smartphones are allowing us to behave differently by almost not interacting at all, changing another aspect of American culture. The way Americans behave correlates to what is going on with their smartphone. For example, if there are no texts or “likes” Americans are edgy while waiting for the catchy sound to notify them. Conversely, Americans are giddy when these notifications come through, all the while distracted from their surroundings. In Culture Jam, by Kalle Lasn, Lasn talks about the way people relax when they come home by turning on the TV. Yet, I believe Americans interact with their smartphones in the same way. “ We sit there passively hour after hour, barely moving except to eat. We receive but we do not transmit. Identical images flow into our brains, homogenizing our perspectives, knowledge, tastes and desires. We watch nature shows instead of venturing out into nature. We laugh at sitcom jokes but not our spouse’s” (11). It is possible to infer that Americans are behaving in a much more withdrawn way. In American culture, it is common to see people walking down the street with their dog, out to dinner with a significant other, or waiting in line to buy smartphone accessories while fully consumed by what is happening with their device. What I find to be the most interesting it that smartphones allow Americans to behave introverted when they are with people or uncomfortable, but also permits them to be outgoing and candid and share a lot of personal information over the web using social media sites.
Last of all, smartphones can be directly tied to the change in American values in culture. They let Americans consume more, want more, need more. With a smartphone in hand, everything is easily accessible, and when information and products are so readily available, there is no satisfaction. To meet the demand of wanting more, Americans simply browse the web more, Facebook more, text more. American values in culture now lie with the notion of simply desiring more and more and more. American culture can be seen as image based, and smartphones make this link because they allow for instant gratification that is ever growing. Lasn says, “ … we embrace the value of More to compensate for lives that seem, somehow, Less” (11). In a way, American lives are somewhat less because human contact is dwindling to compensate for image.
American culture is on a rampage, it is changing constantly and before out eyes. Technology can be seen as a factor of the ever-changing ways of American culture. Although, explicitly, smartphones are greatly fluctuating American culture by letting individuals learn and absorb information, behave in social settings and value ideals in a wholly new fashion. Years ago, I thought phones could not get any more advance. Today they are doing things beyond what I thought possible and tomorrow, a smartphone with unheard of features could be released. With every new advancement in smartphone technology, American culture shifts.