Smartphones: constant communication, little privacy

Photo by Jessica Wade

Cassie Wade

Unwrapping the package of a sleek, shiny smartphone for the first time is an indescribable feeling. In your hands, you hold the power of a miniature computer small enough to fit in the pocket of your jeans. But beware your smartphone’s power because it has the power to rob you of privacy. Smartphones seem innocent enough. After all, what could possibly be bad about having unlimited access to the internet and a telephone at the same time? The answer lies in the very reason smart phones were created: 24/7 communication with the world.

The basic purpose of a smartphone, like all types of phones, is communication. With a smartphone, you can call, text, FaceTime or Skype anyone at anytime. You know the other person will answer because their phone is always on, too.

In fact, in a 2015 Bank of America survey, 71 percent of respondents said they slept with their smartphones. This means that the vast majority of smartphone owning people are plugged into their smartphones all day and night.

With the vast majority of the population carrying their phone with them 24/7, communication expectations have changed and become more complicated. Smartphones have caused a new set of rules regulating communication to be created and understood among all device owners.

For example, a response to a text is expected to be instantaneous, otherwise the other person becomes frustrated or worries they’ve said something wrong. Phone calls should be answered within the first couple rings or the caller worries for your safety because your phone is always next to you and you not answering means something is wrong. Don’t ever power down your phone or you could miss something important.

All of these new rules governing the way people communicate have enabled smartphones to steal people’s privacy. Miscommunications are hard to overcome, especially when they so often lead to hurt feelings or cause someone else to worry, so it’s easier to allow others 24/7 access than to power down your phone.

Additionally, a smartphone’s ability to access the internet has given rise to social media apps designed to keep people connected and constantly communicating thanks to smartphones, you can share your thoughts on Twitter, update your family on your achievements through Facebook, instagram pictures of your dinner and send out selfies through Snapchat no matter where you are or what you’re doing. For this reason, social media apps on smartphones have thrust what was once regarded as everyday, normal actions, such as going out to dinner, into the public sphere where actions and updates become validated through like buttons and comments posted by friends and followers.

This validation, in turn, encourages people to share more about their life and enables smartphones to further rob you of privacy. Just because smartphones have the ability to connect you to others 24/7, doesn’t mean you should allow others unlimited access to your life. It’s exhausting to be constantly communicating. Sometimes you just need time to be you and out of the eyes of the public sphere. It’s time to set limits when it comes to smartphone usage and communication expectations. Connectivity is good but like all things, smartphone communication is better with limitations.