Western Kentucky University Smartphones An Epitome of Addiction Synthesis Essay

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Western Kentucky University


Synthesis Essay


This assignment is a researched argument, synthesizing evidence from multiple scholarly (and some journalistic) sources to support the claims you make about the topic. This project will draw on the skills you need for the large researched argument, but for an essay only half the length of that project, and without all of the research legwork. You will choose from our pooled sources on Blackboard that center on one of the following topics:


  • Smartphones/technology usage
  • attention/focus/productivity


You will need to ask questions to come up with an angle that is arguable and provable through your use of synthesized evidence. Problem/solution, cause/effect, and qualitative evaluation are all central structures for most academic argument. If there wasn’t an issue that needed addressing, scholars wouldn’t bother doing the research and writing about it. Thus, the early part or introduction to your synthesis paper is probably going to be establishing attention toward some issue, explaining its impact or providing potential solutions. Often, the problem might be in the guise of popular misconceptions that you want to debunk by suggesting alternative approaches/ideas/practices from the research. The goal is to be able to parse through sources and construct an informed argument/analysis of the information, bringing together multiple sources (i.e. synthesizing) into one cohesive thread. (APA) format

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Journal of Ideology Volume 38 | Number 1 Article 3 9-29-2017 Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? William E. Thompson 8865136 Texas A&M University-Commerce, william.thompson@tamuc.edu Mica L. Thompson Texas A&M University-Commerce, mica.thompson@tamuc.edu Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji Part of the Sociology Commons Recommended Citation Thompson, William E. 8865136 and Thompson, Mica L. (2017) "Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life?," Journal of Ideology: Vol. 38 : No. 1 , Article 3. Available at: http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol38/iss1/3 This Article is brought to you for free and open access by Scholar Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in Journal of Ideology by an authorized editor of Scholar Commons. For more information, please contact SCHOLARC@mailbox.sc.edu. Thompson and Thompson: Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? William E. Thompson Texas A&M University-Commerce Mica L. Thompson Texas A&M University-Commerce Published by Scholar Commons, 2017 1 Journal of Ideology, Vol. 38 [2017], No. 1, Art. 3 Abstract Due to the widespread popularity and seeming dependence on smartphones, especially by millennials and post-millennials, many parents, teachers, and even medical professionals have expressed concern that an entire generation may be addicted to these devices and the various social media to which they provide access. Sociologically, however, it may be more insightful to apply some of the well-established theories related to social change and adaptation to technology, to describe, analyze, and better explain the massive popularity and widespread use of this particular phenomenon as a way of life and its impact on human behavior, social interaction, culture, and society. Key Terms: Cell Phones; Smartphones; Addiction; Technology; Social Change http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol38/iss1/3 2 Thompson and Thompson: Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? Introduction Look around. In restaurants, on the subway, in the classroom, in automobiles, and even in places where their use is discouraged or strictly forbidden, count the number of people staring at, talking into, or texting on their smartphones. The widespread fascination with and use of this form of technology is much more than a passing fad or frivolous activity likely to go the way of the hula hoop, pet rock, or fidget spinner. Rather, smartphone use has become a routine way of life for a large segment of the population. Smartphones and some derivative thereof have become and will most likely remain a significant aspect of both material and normative culture as they evolve into even more powerful and convenient forms of everyday technology. Moreover, they have had tremendous impact on the way people, especially younger Americans conduct their daily lives. Psychologists, Jean Twenge, a noted scholar who has researched generational differences among the so-called “Greatest Generation,” “Baby Boomers,” “Generation X,” “Millennials,” and “Post-millennials” (which she calls “iGen”), asserts that analyzing data from the 1930s to the present, she has never witnessed a more dramatic shift in everyday social behavior than what emerges when comparing millennials to the succeeding postmillennial generation in 2012: the exact year when the proportion of Americans who owned smartphones went over 50 percent (Twenge, 2017). As with many technological innovations and their influence on popular culture, many people fear that smartphones may pose a serious threat to life as they know it. Popular media portrayals of medicine, doctors, and healthcare along with the ubiquitous advertising of pharmaceuticals and other medical remedies, have contributed to the public’s tendency to individualize and Published by Scholar Commons, 2017 3 Journal of Ideology, Vol. 38 [2017], No. 1, Art. 3 medicalize various types of human behavior in twenty-first century American society citing potential harm to both physical and mental well-being (Callero, 2017, Thompson, et al., 2017). For example, alcoholism, once viewed as a deviant behavior reflecting the lack of self-control, now is widely considered to be a disease identified as alcohol addiction. Likewise, cheating spouses are no longer considered to be immoral philanderers, but are diagnosed as being sex addicts by both amateurs and medical professionals alike. A cursory examination of the list of human behaviors to which the term addiction has been applied by the general public, runs the alphabetical gamut from A to Z, ranging from the aforementioned alcoholism to zoophilia (Thompson and Gibbs, 2017). Yet, the most commonly cited authority on mental disorders, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is more selective, limiting its list of addictions to alcoholism and other drugs while citing gambling addiction as well as some sexual fetishes as being diagnosable mental illnesses (APA, 2013). Nevertheless, many psychologists and psychiatrists have at various times joined the general public and declared that American youth are “addicted” to rock n’ roll, television, video games, the Internet, and now their cellphones, fueling the fears of parents, family members, and policy makers leading to moral panics among the general population (Haenfler, 2016). Perhaps an important question, however, is are people addicted to their smartphones, or have smartphones, like many other technological innovations over time, become such convenient and practical devices that they have become a way of life for a large segment of the population? http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol38/iss1/3 4 Thompson and Thompson: Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as a complex medical condition involving brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences, and lists the following 11 criteria as symptoms, any three of which may warrant a diagnosis of addiction: 1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you meant to 2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to 3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance 4. Cravings and urges to use the substance 5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use 6. Continuing to use the substance, even when it causes problems in relationships 7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use 8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger 9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance 10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance) 11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance (Hartney, 2016). Today, with technology playing such a prominent role in peoples’ lives, we are experiencing widespread concern that people, especially America’s youth, are addicted to Published by Scholar Commons, 2017 5 Journal of Ideology, Vol. 38 [2017], No. 1, Art. 3 computers, video games, and their smartphones. A popular website declares: “58% of men and 47% of women suffer from Nomophobia, or the fear of being without a smartphone” (Addictiontips, 2015), and the prestigious Pew Research Center reports that 46 percent of smartphone owners contend that their smartphone is something they “could not live without” (Anderson, 2015). Numerous media sources have jumped on the smartphone addiction bandwagon warning parents, school officials, and others of the potential dangers of smartphone addiction and abuse. Medical doctors are exploring the possibilities of disease resulting from exposure to the radiation produced by cellular phones; while counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists warn of the more social and psychological issues related to the inability to communicate directly with others, interact socially, and the inability to recognize facial expressions associated with fear, anger, excitement, joy, and other emotions (Dawel, et al., 2015). Despite long-standing skepticism of the individualistic approach to human social behavior and the popular tendency to apply the medical model to any and all negatively viewed human activities, social scientists, including sociologists, seem willing to accept the assessment that today’s youth are addicted to technology, especially their smartphones. This study acknowledges the widespread dependence of society on technology and the strong attachment of people, especially millennials and post-millenials, to their smartphones and other forms of technology. In order to explore cellphone usage among today’s college students and their willingness or unwillingness to forego usage of their phones, a simple study was designed and implemented at a medium-sized regional state university in the southwest. http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol38/iss1/3 6 Thompson and Thompson: Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? Method During five consecutive long-term semesters (fall and spring) over two academic years, a total of 360 students enrolled in introductory sociology courses were asked to self-report whether they could go without using their phones for a 24-hour period during any or all of the five days in a school week. As an incentive, they would be rewarded 2 bonus points as extra credit in the course for each 24-hour period, and if they could go all five consecutive days without using their phones, they would be awarded five additional bonus points for a total of 15 points. Since it was discovered that almost none of the students wore wristwatches or had alarm clocks, a caveat was included that allowed students to use their phones as clocks only, checking the time and setting alarms. Any other phone usage whatsoever at any time during a 24-hour day would constitute a violation and result in no points for that day. Students who used their phone on Monday, however, could attempt to go the 24 hours of Tuesday without usage and receive points for that day, and so forth throughout the school week. Participation in the study was voluntary, although not anonymous, and based on the honor system as there was no way to check the validity of the self-report data. When the tally sheets were handed out, several students declined, saying things like “Are you kidding?, I couldn’t go 24 minutes without using my phone much less 24 hours.” Others eagerly grasped the opportunity to earn bonus points with at least one student remarking, “this will be the easiest 15 points I’ve ever earned.” Only two students out of all the classes surveyed indicated that they did not own a cellphone. They were two brothers from Saudi Arabia who jointly had been given Published by Scholar Commons, 2017 7 Journal of Ideology, Vol. 38 [2017], No. 1, Art. 3 by their parents one cellphone to share for emergency use only while attending the university in the United States. These two students were not included in the data reported in this study. Findings At the end of one week, a total of only 60 of the 360 students (16.7%) had gone as much as 24 hours without using their phones. Fifty-two (14.4%) managed to go at least two days or 48 hours during the week without using their phones (although not necessarily consecutively); fortyfive (12.5%) went at least three days or 72 hours; twenty-six (7.2%) managed as much as four days (96 hours) and only 16 out of the 360 (4.4%) were able to go five consecutive days (120 hours) sans phones. At first glance, the data seem to indicate that today’s college students are indeed addicted to their phones. Even more interesting than the quantitative findings were some of the comments made by students after attempting a week of abstinence from their phones. One girl, who declined to even attempt a day without her phone, said, “you might as well ask me not to breathe for a day.” Another girl who attempted each day to not use her phone, commented that it was “like trying not to use her right hand—it’s almost like the phone is part of my body.” One male student even used the magic word, saying, “I never thought I was addicted to my phone, but when I tried to go without it, I had to admit, I can’t do it.” Another male, who went three of the five days without using his phone sounded like many alcoholics or drug abusers, commenting “I can take it or leave it [my smartphone], and the only reason I didn’t go the entire week without using it was because my parents called one night and my girlfriend called me a couple of times, and I felt like I had to answer.” http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol38/iss1/3 8 Thompson and Thompson: Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? Discussion Although its popular usage may vary, the term addiction is a medical one, and technically is a diagnosis that can only be made by doctors trained to do so. However, over the past century, there has been a tendency in American culture to frame previously non-medical phenomena in medical terms. Medicalization is a process whereby behaviors, activities, and personal or social problems, previously not linked to health and medicine become viewed from a medical perspective and are now believed to be analogous to disease (Thompson, et al., 2017). This has led to a powerful medical model ideology in American culture that views many social issues as being a result of individual pathologies as opposed to being a result of social forces rooted in social structure and organization (Callero, 2017). This ideology tends to frame social issues as being symptoms of larger pathologies in need of a diagnosis that elicits a prognosis as well as prescribed treatment protocols. Hence, the term addiction, a medical affliction, is often applied to non-medical situations such as smartphone usage, or what some people may view as over usage and/or abuse. Instead of accepting the popular notion and medical model ideology that this predominance in smartphone usage is a form of addiction, the authors contend that this is another example of the first wisdom of sociology: things are not what they seem (Berger, 1963). Rather, a more thorough understanding of this phenomenon may be achieved by placing it in a more traditional sociological framework regarding adaptation to technology and social change. Americans have long been ambivalent about technology, loving the convenience and comforts it provides while being wary of the potential dangers, either real or perceived, that may accompany Published by Scholar Commons, 2017 9 Journal of Ideology, Vol. 38 [2017], No. 1, Art. 3 the social change incurred (Haenfler, 2016). What brings one individual comfort and convenience can bring another discomfort and trepidation. Almost every technological advancement in the United States has been met in some quarters by resistance, fear, and even moral panics. For example, when the automobile emerged on the scene, while some viewed it as a major development in improving modes of transportation, others saw it as mere folly, and warned of its potentially dire consequences, some of which threatened the very fabric of social life in rural America, prompting some to label it the “devil’s wagon” (Berger, 1979). In fact, perhaps no single technological invention more significantly altered life in rural America than the automobile. While it may be argued that there were some notably negative effects accompanying the social change brought about by the automobile, few would argue that the accompanying revolution in travel was more negative than positive. Before the end of its production, Henry Ford sold 15 million Model Ts. Meanwhile, Chrysler, the Dodge brothers, and General Motors were also manufacturing and selling competing models (Goldstone, 2016). Did the rapid and widespread acceptance and ultimate dependence on automobiles for transportation signify that Americans became addicted to their cars? Perhaps. Yet, few social scientists, or any other serious-minded individuals see American’s love affair with and reliance on their automobiles as being a medical affliction. Rather, despite the fact that there are over 253 million automobiles on the road in America (Hirsch, 2014) and approximately 38,000 automobile-related deaths per year in the United States (Ziv, 2016), the automobile is primarily viewed as an important technological invention that made American’s lives easier, broadened people’s social spheres, and essentially made life better. Automobile dealers are hardly viewed http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol38/iss1/3 10 Thompson and Thompson: Smartphones: Addiction, or Way of Life? in the same way as drug dealers, and although used car salespeople may be viewed somewhat negatively, someone who identifies with being a “car person” is anything but stigmatized by the masses. In short, in the United States and much of the modern world, owning and driving an automobile (or more than one) is merely a way of life. Perhaps more closely analogous to the concern associated with smartphones is the invention of the telephone itself, and the accompanying social changes it created. Although several others developed devices for transmitting the human voice, when Alexander Graham Bell famously stated “Watson come here! I want to see you,” a social communication revolution was soon to follow (Coe, 1995). Fear of electrical shock, worries that letter writing might decline (which it did), and a suspected increasing dependence on the convenience provided by talking on the phone led many skeptics to warn that it would be transformed from being primarily a device for short-range important timely communication to a device for the exchange of trivial information and even gossip. Although these negative consequences were realized, over time telephones became a staple in almost every American home and business, and an individual’s telephone number became almost as an important part of a person’s identity as his or her name and address. Did Americans become addicted to their telephones? Or, was the technology so convenient, personally satisfying, and in some cases even critical to survival (dial 911 for emergencies), that the phone came to be viewed as a necessity rather than a luxury item, much like automobiles, electricity, microwave ovens, computers, and numerous other technological devices that brought about massive social change? For most people born before 1990 a cellphone was initially viewed as a luxury item, but as the phones became more affordable, Published by Scholar Commons, 2017 11 Journal of Ideology, Vol. 38 [2017], No. 1, Art. 3 smaller, and more convenient, they soon became valued for their utilitarian value. Portable phones were popular in homes with landlines because the user no longer was tethered to a wire or instrument attached to a permanent location. Cell phones, originally referred to as mobile phones, provided even more freedom and convenience and were a logical technological improvement for a highly mobile population like that of the United States and most countries in Europe. First embraced by the youth subculture it was not long until cellphones became popular with their parents and even grandparents. Even though many adults initially scoffed at carrying and using cellphones, and struggled with the small screens and tiny buttons, they soon became enamored with their convenience and the symbolism that implied they were “hip” or more modern than their counterparts who refused to adapt to the new technology. As one social scientist noted, “Often youth subcultures shine a light on the ‘invisible,’ or taken-for-granted (and o...
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Smartphones: An Epitome of Addiction?
Thesis statement: Smartphones have made life easier as they have collected several tools in one
place while miniaturizing them into the palm of our hands. However, this innovative technology
also has severe physical and psychological health hazards. This paper synthesizes four documents,
taken from the pooled offers of the course, in order to formulate an argument regarding the
addiction caused by smartphones.





Newport’s (2019) statement regarding Steve Jobs’ ideology of a smartphone


Analyzing data collected from Perrin and Kumar (2019)


Social acceptance of smartphones as suggested by Thompson and Thompson (2017)


Argument regarding learning impairment by Chen and Yan (2016)


Promotion of smartphones brought by COVID-19


Possible solutions of smartphone addiction
a. Public awareness policy
b. Self-accountability through built-in usage monitoring apps





Smartphones: an epitome of addiction?

[Name of Student]

[Name of Institution]
[Course Name & Number]


Smartphones: an epitome of addiction?

Smartphones have made everyday life easier by introducing crucial features that allow
fast access to tools and information, which was formerly hard to come by. This technology has
made it to mainstream use fairly recently, as just ten years ago, the concept of smartphones was
relatively new. As a matter of fact, smartphones were never supposed to become so crucial to
everyday life as Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, the first company to introduce the term
'smartphones,' never expected nor idealized a world so gravely dependent on smartphones
(Newport, 2019). Smartphones synthesize the powers and capabilities of phones, computers,
clocks, calculators, music players, and even that of a GPS device in a pocket-friendly form
factor. Tha...

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