Smartphones as objects providing comfort

Research suggests using a smartphone helps comfort adults:

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

But scientists studying the relationship between people and their smartphones also have come up with additional insights in recent years about how people behave when using them, including discovering that people can draw needed comfort by their mere presence.

Individuals hold a deep personal connection with their phones, according to researchers. This leads phone users to express their views more freely when using their phones, often in exaggerated ways, and with more honesty, disclosing personal or sensitive information, for example, compared with laptops or tablets, experts say. They are portable and they have haptic properties that stimulate our sense of touch. And we regard them as much more personal than computers, which are closely associated with work…

“What might be going on? We don’t know, but one theory that makes sense to me is that they represent that we have friends,” he says. “It’s a reminder that we have friends, and knowing we can reach them, even remotely, is comforting. Also, they are very personal devices, more so than any other device, and with us all the time. From that perspective, we see them as an extension of ourselves.”

The phones also serve as a repository for all the details in our lives, from banking and entertainment, to tracking the whereabouts of our children, and getting us from one location to another. “They are the holy grail for convenience,” says Jeni Stolow, a social behavioral scientist and assistant professor at the Temple University college of public health. “It’s someone’s whole world in the palm of the hand. That is really appealing because it can make people feel in control at all times.”

Humans have the capacity to use many different items as tools and accessories to our daily tasks and activities. The smartphone is in a long line of “devices” that extend human possibilities. With the smartphone, someone can soothe themselves, access all sorts of information, and interact with others. It offers tremendous possibilities.

The emphasis here in the rest of the article is the possible effects of having all of this in a smartphone. Is it a “pacifier” or a creator of new problems? New tools bring new problems. And this leads to a pressing question for our era: is the smartphone in the long run a positive for humans? More broadly, we are in the midst of 30 years or so of asking the same question about the Internet: does all this access to people and information improve human life?

It might be hard to answer this question in the middle of an ongoing process. Having research, such as that cited above, can help us understand the effects as well as consider our interaction with the changes. All might be clearer in a decade or two…or even more complicated if we end up further down a path with devices that offer much in terms of both positive and negative possibilities.

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