10 Life Experiences That Have Been Forever Changed By Smartphones

by Jeremiah Shea

The iPhone was released in 2007. While it didn't immediately put a smartphone in everyone's hand, it set everything in motion. Let's look at some statistics about today's smartphone world, and about where we're heading:

  • As of April 2015, 64 percent of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind.
  • By 2017, over a third of the world's population is projected to own a smartphone.
  • By 2020, the number of people who have smartphones will be more than the number of people who have running water.

If you're on the higher side of the Millennial age bracket, you easily remember those screechy tones of dial-up Internet. The Internet certainly wasn't instant or always on, like it is today.

It was a painful barrier. But it's one I now appreciate, as there had to be a compelling reason to use it. In the case of technology today, four people at a restaurant table can often race to validate someone's response with a factual check on Wikipedia on their phones.

The propensity of smartphone saturation, and the addition of other Internet-connected devices making their way into the market, has set a precedence for information. We will always be connected to it, from this point on.

It's very important that we realize this effect. We have to ensure that we are present, and that we are taking things in on a human level. Smartphones connect us to the Internet, but they disconnect us from reality.

Here are 10 places where we're losing our grasp. We are trending toward either completely removing ourselves from them, or we're so entrenched in sharing them digitally that we're truly not experiencing the moments themselves:

1. The Car Ride

This is more in the context of a group, but a car ride used to be a place where conversations were almost inescapable. How many times, as a kid, did you dread a car ride home with your parents when you knew they were upset about something?

If you look at TV and movies from yesteryear, they depict family trips as times when families would play games, sing and use other methods to pass the time. Cars are almost always silent now.

Passengers are glued to games and social media to pass the time. Heck, even car companies know this. They are building in WiFi-enabled cars to meet this need.

2. The Dinner Table

Let's sidestep the fact that most people don't sit down for a normal meal anymore. Let's just assume that's not the case.

Technically, this topic could even include trips to a restaurant. How many times have you been eating with other people, only to see a wave occur? One person takes out his or her phone, and soon, the whole table has its face down.

It's sad, really. The dinner table used to be the place where conversations took center stage. Lunch for business or dinner with the family almost always meant catching up and making some social progress.

Now, you can stay up to speed on social media. Everyone is always in constant communication anyway, so what's the need? Sigh.

3. Watching TV

Remember when people used to watch TV? This is said half-jokingly, but really, there are times when people sit around the TV and take out their phones as soon as the first commercial comes on.

It's all downhill from there, with our attention split six ways to Sunday. Speaking of Sunday, we can catch up and re-watch our shows then anyway. So we might as well dial into the distraction.

4. Work Meetings

People sit around the conference table and pass the time before a meeting by -- what else -- grabbing their phones. Even during the meeting, some people rudely stop paying attention in order to "attend to urgent emails."

As a meeting wraps up, most people grab their phones to see what insanely urgent emails they missed out on during the lengthy half-hour session. Is anyone paying attention?

5. Concerts

We've all been there. We've all become lost in the moment at our favorite band's concert. Then, the person in front of you holds up his or her phone to capture some pictures or video.

While most people can't blame this person, there's something to say about capturing a moment versus actually experiencing one. A growing number of artists are not allowing fans to take photos or videos during shows now. In some cases, people aren't even allowed to bring their phones inside the venue.

It's an interesting thought when you consider the growing trend of a sea of phones at a concert.

6. In Bed With Our Significant Other

There are already numerous studies that say the light from a television or phone disrupts our body's natural winding down phase before we eventually go to sleep. After a hectic day, the bedroom is the one place where couples can embrace and connect.

There's no room in bed for your phone, whether you're in a relationship or not. Unplug, disconnect and use that bed to the fullest.

7. Vacations

We get it. The overdone shot of a pair of legs and feet in front of a pool or on the beach is a clear signal that you're in a place that will make us all jealous.

But while you're taking 20 pictures to make sure your legs look just right, not only did you miss the guy passing out free drinks at your all-inclusive B&B, but you're also staying connected to the not-on-vacation world. Turn the phone off and relax, for goodness' sake.

8. Sporting Events

This is like a cross between concerts and vacations. Sporting events are similar to the former because everyone tries to capture that one moment at the game. How about you actually watch with your eyes and live it? You're there, aren't you?

It's similar to the vacation because there's no need to take a shot of your view, just to prove to the world that you were there. Throw your phone in your pocket and tune in until the buzzer rings. We've all missed a play because we've been staring at our screens.

9. Hanging With Friends and Family

This is a sad truth. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about friends or family here: We hang out in silence, even though we're in a room full of people.

With everyone knowing what everyone else is doing via social media, there's clearly less to talk about. But try to go out on a limb and actually talk to people when you make the time to get together.

10. Around New People

Partying with friends, hitting up a club, during a team-building event for work or even just sitting on the subway: There are lots of times when we are in the presence of new people. I still remember my dad forcing me to introduce myself when I was younger.

Fast-forward 20-ish years. Now, we all grab our phones when we don't have someone to talk to. When was the last time you introduced yourself and tried to strike up a conversation? It's sadly pretty rare. We're all probably missing out on some interesting interactions.

Where else do you feel the impact? Do you agree it's a problem?