To open its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple showed a video that imagines what the world would be like if people suddenly lost access to all the apps on their iPhones. In short: pure chaos.
In the three-minute spot, people lose the ability to navigate roads and cause accidents, one crazed woman hands out selfies and a couple actually swap faces by visiting a plastic surgeon. Funny, right? The point of the video was to show that the world, and of course Apple, needs developers to make the little programs that now dominate our lives.
But watching the video, I couldn’t help but feel that it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of our increasing dependence on our pocket computers. According to data from Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and seven in 10 are on social media. And if you think that this trend is just linked to millennials, think again: Nielsen found that people between the ages of 35 and 49 spend an average of six hours and 58 minutes a week on social media, compared with six hours and 19 minutes for 18- to 34-year-olds. Those over 50 only spend an average of four hours and nine minutes a week on social media.
A different study, by the Royal Society for Public Health, revealed that 91 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds use the internet for social networking, and found a connection between social media use and increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep. It points out that rates of anxiety and depression have increased 70 percent in the past 25 years (which is longer than smartphones have been ubiquitous). The organization is calling for social media companies to introduce “heavy usage” warnings on their platforms.
“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues,” RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said in a statement accompanying the findings.
For many people, the smartphone in their hand is an extension of themselves. They just wouldn’t be them without it. And that’s what this Apple video brings to light.
But if you find this video speaks to you on a deeper level, do yourself a favor and take a break from technology every once in a while. Turn your phone off, explore the world without any help and resist that urge to take a picture and share it. And hey, maybe learn to navigate with a map.