Day 16: Why the cigarettes I smoke remind me of my smartphone addiction


Cigarettes and smartphones have a symbiotic relationship many of us may be unaware of.

I'll admit, I have smoked a few cigarettes in my life. Usually if its finals week, something is stressing me out, or I am with someone else who is smoking, I will partake. What I have found is that the slight addiction I have felt with cigarettes eerily reminds me of the addiction I use to have with my smartphone.

That is, I crave them both when I am in need of some fulfillment in my life. As I have discussed in prior pieces, smartphones offer an escape from our reality, while simultaneously having the ability to make ourselves feel significant. This is a dangerous combination in my opinion, and these two phenomena co-exist with each other.

But back to the topic of cigarettes. In a way, there are some similarities here we can explore. One could argue cigarettes don't exactly offer an escape from reality, but you are certainly (and very slightly) distorting your reality when you smoke a cigarette.

A high school teacher one time described why nicotine is so dangerous, since its the only drug that is "centering." If you are tired, it will perk you up. If you are anxious, it will bring you back down. The common theme here is that no matter what substance you are using, smartphones or cigarettes, you are attempting to distort or ignore the reality around you. It is sometimes scary to face the music, your feelings, your anxieties, whatever it may be. With this, I believe one can probably group smartphones and cigarettes under the umbrella of highly addictive substances. (Don't worry, I don't think the Feds are going to come after our phones any time soon).

"The difference between smartphones and cigarettes is this: a cigarette robs 10 minutes from your lifespan, but at least it has the decency to wait and withdraw all that time in bulk as you near the end of your life - whereas a smartphone steals your time in the present moment, by degrees. Five minutes here. Five minutes there. Then you look up and you're 85 years old" - Charlie Brooker

(Not trying to defend cigarettes here!)

Which leads me to something that worries me even more than just my own personal use of both cigarettes and smartphones. I think about the fact that even when I was born in 1996, people could still smoke at bars. While it was probably just starting to be outlawed at that point, it amazes me that in my lifetime, years after it had come out that cigarettes cause cancer, there were still laws that kept people smoking in public places. So how does this relate to smartphones? Well, I believe that we may be somewhat in the Wild West days of smartphones, or if we map it to tobacco, perhaps the 16th, 17th, or 18th century. Put simply, what if it is out of our current conceptual or scientific grasp to really understand the effects smartphones are having on human populations? What if we are hundreds of years behind really understanding what these devices can do to us?

I do not wish to come off overly dramatic or conspiratorial. That is not the message I want to offer. But the message I do want to offer is that we must realize the power and grasp smartphones have on us. We must be wary and commit to some sort of self control so that we don't end up on our death beads later on, wishing we had just looked up from our phone that one time.