Are We becoming Less Self-Reliant Through Tech?

A new study indicates that we not self-reliant enough to live without our tech toys.

iphone self reliance

I remember a time when being out on a major road trip without a phone didn’t bother me. As a college student, when my parents lived thousands of miles away (Kwajalein, Marshall Islands), I drove hundreds of miles on several major road trips by myself. There were no other options because mobile phones were not produced for the masses yet.

I love how mobile phones make it easier to do things, but the anxiety that comes when I no longer have such a device seems crazy. This study’s recommendations seem even crazier. The University of Missouri press release is headlined: “iPhone Separation Linked to Physiological Anxiety, Poor Cognitive Performance, MU Study Finds.” What is most disturbing about this article is that it doesn’t do what I expected from the headline. I would think that buying a device that is going to cause separation anxiety would be a device you might consider not purchasing. Are the benefits worth all that money you spend to make yourself psychologically dependent on the device?

But that is not the advice issued from the study:

Cell phone use has become a common part of life as mobile devices have become one of the most popular ways to communicate. Even so, very little research exists on the impact of cell phone usage and specifically what happens when people are separated from their phones. Now, research from the University of Missouri has found that cell phone separation can have serious psychological and physiological effects on iPhone users, including poor performance on cognitive tests. The researchers say these findings suggest that iPhone users should avoid parting with their phones during daily situations that involve a great deal of attention, such as taking tests, sitting in conferences or meetings, or completing important work assignments, as it could result in poorer cognitive performance on those tasks.

“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks,” Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the MU School of Journalism and lead author of the study, said. “Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.”

So that’s it. If iPhones become necessary for basic functions we all used to be able to perform without them, then the answer is to accommodate the dependence. No wonder tech people want their children to be educated without the devices. The magic touch screen seems to be a path to loss of independence of mind.

Are there political consequences to this? If our iPhones keep us “connected” to others, then they seem to be training devices to form us into people who are unable to cope with life by ourselves. Is that mindset likely to produce wise and rational voters?