Excessive smartphone use is having negative side effects in society

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 January, 2018, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 January, 2018, 11:03pm

In this digital age when everyone is bombarded with information transmitted at a breakneck speed, many suffer from digital amnesia, a term describing the condition when people have poor short-term memory and limited attention spans.

The consequences of being inattentive may range from very minor ones like bumping into other pedestrians and forgetting to get off at a bus stop to missing an important announcement in an emergency and causing traffic accidents. With the prevalence of smartphones and internet reception, the phenomenon of inattention will become even more common. What can be done to revitalise the importance of listening?

At home, parents should ban the use of smartphones at the dinner table, as quality family time should be spent on interacting with one another instead of gazing at phones. Family members should cherish the precious moments of dinner time to talk about their ups and downs, share feelings and even plans for the weekend. It is only through setting aside time for undisturbed communication that bonds can be strengthened and children can learn proper table manners.

In the workplace, bosses should require staff to switch off their phones during meetings.

Social media, phone games and other internet activities should have no place in meetings during which important information is disseminated and action required. Employees should also be reminded of the significance of active listening, which entails not interrupting the speaker. All too often, people stop listening when others talk but expect colleagues to listen attentively to what they say. Individuals will reciprocate only when they feel respected.

In society, interaction between strangers in confined areas, especially on public transport, often results in conflict, largely because of inattentive listening on their part. For instance, passengers on the MTR might be so absorbed in their phone activities that they might block other people’s way or fail to give up seats to people in need. Misunderstandings of this kind sometimes could have catastrophic results, such as causing injuries. To prevent such unnecessary quarrels, citizens should stay alert even when using their phones. It’s essential to spare a thought for others’ needs.

Humans are by nature social animals, so we should go back to the basics of face-to-face, genuine communication. That should start with embracing the art of listening in every facet of life again.

Jason Tang, Tin Shui Wai