Unbeknownst to many, the first ever smartphone was actually invented by IBM some time in 1992. However, the term ‘smartphone’ wasn’t coined until 1995.
It took years from that time for this technological phenomena to take over Bangladesh. And as smartphones became a staple for people, especially teenagers, Bangladesh was bound to follow suit.
Smartphones have over time turned into a necessity for most teenagers. Connecting with friends and family, which is the core concept, seems quite fascinating and harmless for the most part.
For instance, Mostafa Habib Hasan is a 17-year-old 11th grader, who lives in Dhaka and happens to find social media and digital devices an absolute necessity to keep up with his friends. In his words: “For almost the past two years now, I haven’t been able to go to school with my friends due to the pandemic. I am used to knowing everything that goes on in their lives everyday and I like it.”
In Mostafa’s opinion, his smartphone allows him to communicate more with his friends simply due to the convenience and ease. And to a certain extent, he is correct. Teenagers today are so comfortable communicating over smartphones that other modes of communicating may seem like a hassle to them.
But the beauty of opinions lies in their uniqueness. While people may have similar opinions, they form these opinions based on their personal experiences.
Mubasshira Zaman is currently studying for her A levels in Dhaka. Her experience with having her smartphone around 24/7 was quite contrasting from Mostafa’s. She decided to give up using her phone back in 2019 because it was becoming overwhelming for her as she felt a compulsion to keep up with everything going on in everyone’s life.
“Everytime I turned my phone on, I would get notifications about what everyone was up to and it always made me feel like I needed to keep up with them and do something too or else I’d fall behind.”
The fear of falling behind can be quite daunting as well as isolating. She believes her mental health has been a lot more stable now and she also feels more comfortable talking to people in real life than she did before.
Apparently, the continuous use of her smartphone for years had made her more accustomed to communicating over texts. “It got to a point where I would feel annoyed when someone would call instead of texting me first,” she said.
While it has become somewhat of a norm to text before calling now, looking back a few years, phone calls were considered the most common and convenient source of communication.
However, now it is not uncommon to see teenagers bring out their phones to text in the middle of a conversation. It’s how they have been communicating as they grow up.
Many teenagers today get their first phones pretty early on. While for the most part, they do agree on the fact that it helps them stay in touch with not just friends and family, but the world around them; there are some who also find it to be isolating.
There are people who wouldn’t mind if someone was texting in the middle of a conversation but there will also be those who get disheartened when they see their friend more focused on texting someone else back rather than listen to what they have to say.
This is the case with generations before Gen Z. Mahtab Uddin, a millennial and a businessman from Ashulia area of Savar, finds it quite irritating when someone texts while talking to him.
“You see, smartphones cut out attention and make people stressful. I see a lot of youths who remain restless all the time and feel the urge to keep an eye on the screen every while,” Mahtab expresses his frustration.
His younger brother Monem Uddin, a 10th grader of Ashulia School and College-- although a Gen Z, thinks like his elder.
“I chat with hundreds of my friends every day and at the end of the day, there is always a sense of void on social media, a feeling that I lack something, someone or a warm bond.”
Monem doesn’t blame smartphones for this entirely as there are areas of productive usage as well. Nevertheless, he feels that smartphones have such elements of attraction that one simply cannot resist detaching oneself from everything else to be part of that ‘smart’ world.
“A group of friends hanging out somewhere while all eyes are locked on their smartphone screens- is now a common scenario. At the end of the day, our hangouts become partly virtual and our cherish of personal bonding remains unsatisfied.”
According to Monem’s observation, smartphones are mostly responsible for making people feel lonely. However, there has not been enough research done to prove the correlation of smartphones and loneliness among teens.
Also, it is important to remember that whether or not smartphones contribute to loneliness varies from person to person. Being aware of the fact could check the consequences anyway.