Recently, Bilyaminu was allegedly killed by his beloved wife. It was alleged that she saw some correspondence between him and another lady in his phone. A week earlier, a senior police officer had told me how they now deal with lots of marital disputes related to mobile phones. In his own words, ‘Smartphones now kill more marriages than poverty’. The police officer may or may not be correct in his conclusions, but indeed mobile phones are affecting relationships like never before and at every level of the society.
Undoubtedly, mobile phones, especially smartphones have helped us in many ways; from making and receiving calls, sending SMS, instant emails and messages, News, voice over data calls, social media, accessibility to tones of information via the Internet, et cetera. The coming of smartphones and cheap data rates has taken communication to a whole new level. The proliferation of uncountable mobile Apps for instant messaging, video calls, and data encryption mean we can now communicate without been tracked by our service providers and surveillance agencies.
All these benefits and lots of more did not come at zero cost to our interpersonal relationships. Even as these devices have helped in getting us more connected in a virtual sense, in reality, our interpersonal relationships are eroding. From relationships within the family, up to the community levels, the effect of these new technologies is crystal clear. The secrecy achievable with these devices has shrouded most marital relationships in suspicions and conflicts. In some cases, culminating into divorces or even death as we have recently seen.
It is so sad how smartphones are turning us into detracted and terrible friends to one another. Face to face interactions are becoming rare. As long as a group message will suffice, we no longer see the need in visiting family and friends. In situations where visitations do happen, people tend to be physically present, but emotionally absent. Within the sitting rooms of families and public spaces, people are now glued to their smartphones at the expense of discussing and interacting. As a people, we now give more attention to building virtual relationships over real and concrete ones. All these because of the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).
From mental and emotional health standpoints, researches have shown how the use smartphones a lot is related to lower level of empathy. Empathy, which is the ability to put one in another person’s shoe and see from his point of view is lacking due to promotion of self-image fueled by the use of social media. Because of the constant supply of people on social media, we now treat people like commodities that are disposable at will. Also, researches have shown how people using smartphones a lot are susceptible to developing depression and anxiety.
Much smartphone time means less time for building bonds and learning to read each other’s emotions. While in reality, lots of researches have shown how spending more time with people in person as one of the best protection from having mental health issues, unfortunately we have become a generation caught in an obsession for Smartphones and Internet connection.
Yahya Idris, Kaduna