Smartphones have greatly revolutionised what we are and how we are today. They allow two people—from the opposite ends of the globe—to speak with each other face to face in real time when, back in the old days, such could nothing be imagined but a sorcery of some kind. Smartphones help us navigate through puzzles of seemingly unfamiliar streets and alleys. Sometimes they are the bridge that leads to someone’s romantic happy ever-after. Other than taking good clear photos, they act as instruments to recording live events, happenings, calamities that eventually make the world smaller and smaller as they connect people to people. For such valuable assistance extended to us, they come with a minimal price to pay. Or do they really?
As all great things are, they come with a price to pay. And sometimes, it’s not about money. Stories of road mishaps in Melbourne surface on the news because the driver has his eyes on the phone. Smartphones are dubbed as the barrier to a child’s social interaction ability, or the hinder to good academic performance. Studies show that some develop anxiety if they don’t have their phones with them, or stir a fear of missing out something important. Others feel a slight depression looking at what appears to be happy photos of friends or celebrations on social media. A few admit that an hour stretches to a long passing day if they can’t get online. Whatever emotion is triggered, it appears that smartphone does have other payment for its use after all.
The Other School of Thought
The researchers of Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine, Harvard Medical School, The University of Manchester, and the Black Dog Institute in Australia stated that a lot of smartphone apps significantly lowered the degree of depression of an individual. It also showed that the person’s mood—once turned to smartphone to seek temporary relief or escape— has improved.
Meanwhile, Dr. John Elhai, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Toledo, in his research on the impact of computer technology on human behavior or cyberpsychology, said that depression is already there when a person spent excessive amount of time on smartphone use. This is one of the many displaying signs of depression or emotional stress. The more the person turns to his phone, the more likely he’s depressed.
Many can relate to that rewarding sensation when we reach a certain number of Likes on Facebook. It means that our selfie matters, the vacation photos matter—that someone actually cares what we have to say. Academics found that the striatum of the brain, responsible for the processing and anticipation of rewards is activated; and that dopamine, the chemical associated with reward and motivation response, is released.
Experts in Medicine and IT Industry could Team Up
About 40% of the world’s population is on smartphone social media app. Combined with the fast and astonishing improvements in technological advances, there’s no doubt smartphones can be capable of extending temporary help or treatment for depression, thus, lessening the impact of this condition instead of becoming the source of it worldwide. It may not come as a substitute for antidepressant medications, but it’s a promising step forward in the use of our Digital Assistants (DA) and in mental health. Medical experts, as well as a few IT services in Philippines look into a possible phone app design and functions suitable for each specific mental health condition. In fact, only recently, Apple is looking for programmers with psychology background to make Siri—Apple’s “intelligent assistant” that recognizes and responds to voice commands—more adept in emotional assistance. Apple posted on its job board the position for Siri Software Engineer for Health and Wellness. This fresh perspective could be the start of a positive take on human-smartphone interaction in this digital era.