Smartphones quickly became a part of modern communicative means. In different parts of the world, they are the most reliable or, in general, the only available phones. Quick mobile telephone penetration, which started around twenty years ago, proceeds up to the present time. In recent years, the use of mobile telecommunication systems and smartphones, in particular, has increased significantly all over the world. The number of the U.S. people using smartphones composed more than 91% in 2013. The development of mobile communication is characterized by prompt rates. In the 1980s, the mobile phones of the first generation in which the analog technology was used allowed only a sound transmission. In 1991, there were a digital transmission and a global system of mobile communication. At present, there are such new opportunities as data and image transmission.
A smartphone is the “advanced” telephone, which is close to the pocket computer by its characteristics. The existence of a rather powerful multitask operating system, which allows to download additional apps and programs, is the main difference between a smartphone and a usual mobile phone. Modern smartphones have more advantages if compared to the usual mobile telephones. Aside from having options of usual telephones, smartphones usually include a file manager, programs for reading books, an e-mail client, a Web browser for convenient viewing of the Internet pages, and instant messaging programs, among others. Moreover, smartphones allow to edit documents in Microsoft Office and use the GPS-navigation and QWERTY-keyboard.
Both analog and digital mobile phones transmit and receive signals in a wave mode in high-frequency ranges of an electromagnetic spectrum. According to the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, high-frequency signals represent non-ionizing radiation with the wavelength in the range from 3 KHz to 300 MHz and microwaves in the range from 300 MHz to 300 GHz. The frequencies used by mobile phones and telecommunication networks are in the range from 900 MHz to 1,8 GHz and up to 2,1 GHz. However, the wavelength can differ depending on the type of a mobile phone. It concerns both smartphones and their base stations, which send and receive calls.
People accepted this technology, which is represented by the universal use of mobile phones and smartphones. However, from the moment of the emergence of mobile phones and smartphones, there is an opinion on the possible negative consequences for health as a result of the influence of high-frequency electronic fields on a human organism. The disputes about the harmlessness of smartphones arise constantly. At present, they are based on a huge number of experimental and theoretical research studies published in leading international scientific publications.
Due to a considerable increase in the use of mobile phones, there are fears about the impact which electromagnetic fields created by mobile phones and base stations have on health. The demonstration of the fact that radiation has adverse effects on human health would mean the emergence of the problem of public health care. Smartphones have been widely used relatively recently; thus, the applied technologies have changed with the transition from the analog to the digital systems. Smartphones and base stations are a source of the high-frequency radiation, which directly influences the state of health. The use of smartphones also leads to such indirect effects as road accidents and interference with the medical equipment.
The findings of research studies on the influence of high-frequency radiation have a general and diverse character. Previous research includes the study of the cell cultures and tissues (in vitro), laboratory animals (in vivo), and people (volunteers). On the one hand, in these research studies, the main attention is paid to the functional changes in a brain, which influence the cognitive function and in a certain degree affect well-being, presupposing the impact of radiation on a head. On the other hand, the research reveals the possibility of the existence of the interrelation between the use of smartphones and the impact on the organism, namely the development of cancer and the influence on the reproductive function, development, cardiovascular system, and life expectancy. The results of these research studies indicate insignificant and reversible biological, physiological, and psychological consequences, which optionally lead to diseases or injuries.
Despite the fact smartphones have numerous useful functions and are widely used all over the world, the people’s obsession with them leads to negative results, like the development of various diseases at the physiological level and psychological problems, including nervousness, anxiety, sound hallucinations, and fear of missing a call or being offline.
Impact of Radio Waves on Human Health
There are many negative effects of the obsession with smartphones, including constant headaches, problems with the memory, ear pain, and fatigue. Long use of the mobile phone can heat a human brain to a certain degree. Wi-Fi technologies of data transmission can adversely influence a brain bark, leading to the non-recoverable consequences. Electromagnetic radiation heats the human tissues and the human cells painfully react to this process. Due to the fact that the smartphone producers constantly increase the frequencies, the waves in high ranges can be unpredictable. The heating of tissues in the human organism is a proved fact. The electromagnetic fields are capable of increasing the temperature of tissues by 10°C. Even a small change of temperature can lead to the serious consequences, such as hormonal disorders, the decrease of male fertility, or disorders of a fetus development. The non-thermal effects of radio waves are often specified as the possible harmful factors of the impact of smartphones on human health. Among the probable negative effects, there is the blood circulation deterioration, difficulty of a brain activity, and even genetic mutations.
There are early and more expressed clinical presentations of the adverse impact of radio waves on a human organism. The early signs include fast fatigue, irritability, headaches, and a sleep disorder. The later signs are represented by the chest pain, stenocardia, and a loss of appetite. In more expressed cases, the main consequence is a neurocirculatory dystonia. There is also the possibility of the coronary blood circulation disorders and the decrease of lactation in breastfeeding women. Problems with memory and constant headaches comprise another important consequence of a long use of mobile telephones by people. The harm of the use of smartphones derives from the negative impact on the blood-brain barrier.
The Psychological Disorders Caused by the Smartphone Abuse
The obsession with smartphones results in the development of not only physiological disorders in a human organism but also psychological problems. A phantom call syndrome presupposes the appearance of the acoustical and motor hallucinations when people all the time feel that their smartphone rings or vibrates in their pocket, but nothing happens. This disease develops due to stress and is rather widespread among the smartphone users.
Another psychological problem is the nomophobia, which is the short form of “no mobile phobia”. It is a fear to live without a smartphone. In the absence of access to a smartphone, some individuals experience worries while others feel a real panic. In fact, people are so accustomed to their smartphones that they check them often even if there is no notification of messages or calls. Thus, they try to be constantly online, which causes stress. According to Collins, "People become so obsessive about checking their email accounts and social networking sites that they actually become more stressed as a result." As a result, a constant check of smartphones and not the hard work became the number one contributor to stress. As Collins claims, "Stress was directly linked to the number of times people checked their phones on average, and people with the most extreme levels of stress were troubled by the “phantom” vibrations when no message had been received."
Cyber sickness is another psychological problem of the excessive use of smartphones. People suffering from it experience dizziness, disorientation, and nausea due to the interaction with certain electronic devices. The term “digital dementia,” represented by a memory loss, attention and cognitive disorders, depression, and a low level of self-control, came from South Korea, which was among the first states which entered the digitalization. Together with smartphones and other gadgets, the virus of a digital weak-mindedness penetrates into all countries and all layers of society. It does not know the geographical and social boundaries. The research shows that there are changes in the brain of patients similar to those which arise after a cerebro-cranial trauma or at an early stage of dementia, which is a weak-mindedness which develops at a senior age. Digital dementia caused by the excessive use of smartphones and computers leads to such consequences as the development of egoism, obscenity, and rebellion in children. The monotonous time sharply limits the amount of external incentives which compose the nutrition for a brain. Moreover, a brain does not receive sufficient experience to develop the important sites responsible for sympathy, self-checking, decision-making, imagination, and figurative thinking, resulting in the death of a brain. Due to the idea that all the necessary information is present in a smartphone, people do not train their memory, leading to the memory problems and the atrophy of brain tissues.
As a result, the “Google effect” is the most widespread illness which affects all those, who have the Internet access on their smartphones. People with such illness are sure that knowledge is not necessary, as any information is always available on a smartphone. A brain simply refuses to memorize the information, irrespective of the will, knowing that it is much simpler to find this information than to store it. Thus, the excessive use of social networks and search engines, negatively affects both a short and long memory. The Internet addictive people are not able to archive the information important for them in a brain. The Internet, in general, and social networks, in particular, worsen a human memory and do not allow to receive and store new information.
Psychiatrists note that more and more children are exposed to the intellectual dissonances, severe depressions, and addiction to a smartphone and the Internet. The more time teenagers spend on social networks, the more strongly they feel lonely. Moreover, the ability to sympathize decreases and an unmotivated aggression appears. The use of social networks by means of smartphones leads to bad moods and negative attitude to own life.
People share only the best photos and news, which show them in the best view, rich and healthy. Those, whose social or financial status is lower, feel deprived and develop a low self-esteem. According to the research conducted by Taylor Wickel, on average, 73,5% of all participants check social networks more than five times a day.
If to transfer the focus from the use of smartphones to the Internet, in general, there is the Internet addiction. It is a painful and a constant desire to access the world web, which negatively affects other spheres of life, often completely forcing them out. The Internet addiction is a mental disorder characterized by the increased sensitivity, vulnerability, uneasiness, tendency to depression, a low self-assessment and stress resistance, and inability to resolve the conflicts. The young people suffering from the Internet addiction, as a rule, are not able to build the relations with their peers and an opposite sex and badly adapt to a team environment, which promotes the escape from the vital difficulties to the virtual world of a smartphone and gradual formation of the Internet addiction.
Experiencing difficulties in the expression of emotions and making contacts with relatives and peers, young people try to avoid the situations where they can feel discomfort and look for safer, mediated way of interaction with the environment, for example, on the Internet. The Internet environment serves as a remedy of self-defense for a bad mood, the feeling of pain, and humiliation. The beginning of the manifestation of the Internet addiction occurs in school days and continues during the college or university years when independence in decision-making and resistance to stress are especially necessary. The formation of the Internet addiction is often connected with the specifics of education and the relations in a family. A strict guardianship, overestimated requirements, broken relations between other family members, as well as difficulty in communication and mutual understanding can result in the severe Internet addiction.
The dependence on online games is another psychological problem of people obsessed with the use of smartphones. Online game world replaces the real world for some individuals. People start to live in the reality created by the online game producers. They lose all contacts with reality, leading to the severe depressions, physical exhaustion, and even suicide.
Selfie is a variety of a self-portrait by means of a photo camera or a smartphone. Selfies became so much popular after the invention of smartphones equipped with good photo cameras and a special selfie stick. Psychologists mark that the majority of selfies bears a sexual context and aims at the creation of an image which often does not correspond to the reality. Besides, the selfie mania in its extreme manifestation is a kind of compensation for the endured loneliness. It is peculiar to people having difficulties in the establishment of contacts.
Being a mass form of the youth culture, a selfie is the manifestation of narcissism. The excessive devotion to selfie can negatively influence the relations in a family, education of children, and a working atmosphere, as well as cause the explosions of violence. Such a concentration on oneself can negatively affect the real relations with people around. Moreover, in reality, people become unfriendly toward the environment and move away from one another. The self-assessment and emotional state of such a person can depend on the quantity of the collected likes in social networks. The absence of the external attention to the selfie can provoke depressions. One more problem connected to the selfie mania can include the dissatisfaction with own appearance and an obsession with its correction. Plastic surgeons pay attention to the increase in a number of young people, preferentially girls, who make plastic surgeries after unsuccessful selfies.
The spread of selfie mania led to the appearance of a new trend called an extremal selfie. Such photos enjoy a bigger popularity in social networks. In a pursuit of the tens of additional “likes,” some selfie fans are ready to do anything. In particular, they choose the extremal conditions of photographing and endanger their lives. The most extreme selfies are made at height (on a roof of buildings), during the execution of tricks (parkour, jumps from a height), while driving a car (at a wheel of a personal car), in the extremal closeness to dangerous animals (predators), and during extremal entertainments (on a roof of a moving train).
Thus, being the feature of modern smartphones, a selfie is the sign of narcissism and popularity mania. People, who overuse selfies, do not have deep moral values. They appreciate people by the external look and judgment around. The main problem of a selfie is that it shows emptiness in feelings and a need to be seen, heard, and recognized.
Being a qualitative research, the given research paper is based on the qualitative research methods. However, some quantitative research methods like the sociological survey of people obsessed with the use of smartphones were also used while researching the given topic. Particularly, a face-to-face interview was used in the given sociological research on the negative effects of the smartphones on people.
Among the qualitative research methods, such methods as observation, content analysis, and historical analysis were used. Observation is a purposeful, organized perception and registration of the behavior of the researched object. The content analysis is a method of a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the content of documents for the purpose of the detection or measurement of different facts and tendencies reflected in these documents. The historical analysis is a scientific method which compares the phenomenon in different historical periods. All three methods were used during the research on the evolution of mobile telephones and smartphones and their possible negative effects on a human organism.
Primary and Secondary Sources
The results of the given research serve as the primary sources. The primary sources reflect only that status of an object, which took place in a certain empirical situation. The task of the given sociological research consisted in the possibility to reflect objectively the reality, irrespective of the subjectivity of a researcher. Used primary sources were transformed into more organized and reasonable empirical knowledge with the greatest possible freedom from the subjective and accidental interpretations. Secondary sources include information taken from other results of research studies conducted by other researchers. Thus, both primary and secondary sources, namely theses, manuscripts, reports on the scientific research operations, surveys, and analytical materials, were used while writing the given research paper.
The random sampling method was used while collecting the survey data for the given research. The population members were chosen randomly and all of them had an equal chance of being selected for the research. The population members were chosen on the streets, in markets, public places, and organizations. The random selection allowed to receive the most realistic picture of the researched issue.
Survey research design was used in the paper. The given research is a qualitative research, consisting of face-to-face interviews with randomly chosen population members. The information received as a result of the conducted survey was generated with the help of the following research questions:
- How much time smartphone users spend using their gadgets daily?
- How does the use of smartphones affect their communications with other family members and friends?
- What are the negative consequences of smartphone use, in the opinion of the interviewees?
- Does a long use of smartphone cause the decreased mood, stresses, or depressions?
The number of interviewees limits the given research, as it is supposed to find out the main tendencies in the research on the negative effects of smartphones on people. The research was also limited by time and was conducted in October – November 2015. The interviewees were chosen from all age groups and social statuses.
Results and Analysis
To research the negative effects of smartphones on people, the face-to-face interview (see Appendix) was conducted with 40 people of different genders, age groups, and social statuses. The results of the conducted survey showed that the young people aged 16-30 look at the screens of their smartphones up to 150 times per day and spend around 3.2 hours using their smartphones. Out of 60-70 apps downloaded to smartphones, only ten are mostly used. The most time spent using smartphones is devoted to the social networks, video preview online, and information search. The youth spends more time utilizing smartphones than the people of a senior age, who spend on average 1.5 hours a day.
Thus, the smartphone and the Internet addiction are the interconnected concepts, leading to the negative effects of the modern gadgets on a human health. It is easy to differentiate the smartphone addicts. They always have turned on smartphones with the stable Internet access, tending to be online and trying to miss neither a call nor a message. Smartphone addicts among the respondents always touched their smartphones and checked emails, messages, social networks, or news. They experience anxiety, worries, and a worsened mood in case if a battery is low or a smartphone is turned off or broken. The feeling of accessibility and availability of smartphones, calls, SMS-chatting, preview of photos and videos, as well as making selfies and sharing them in social networks, improves the mood of people. On the contrary, the limitation of the access to the smartphone results in the decreased communication, fast changes of a well-being-activity-mood, stresses, and depressions.
The answers of the smartphone addicts proved that they experience the negative emotions in the case of the absence of smartphones, such as aggression, boredom, depression, and stress. The fear of having an old-fashioned smartphone and being criticized by the society makes people buy new smartphones immediately after they are released. The necessity of communication is replaced with the SMS communication. The real communication is substituted with the telephone conversation of online chatting.
Moreover, the smartphone addicts stated that they often forget the most important information or cannot concentrate on the important issues not only at the moment when they use the electronic devices. The more time people spend using their smartphones, the more they have so-called “cognitive failures”. For example, they forget to come to a meeting, lose a thread of conversation, or cannot recall what they look for. Individuals possessing the analytical mentality can remember events much better; therefore, they have no need for the use of the smartphone for the search of necessary data. At the same time, the habit to look for the information in a smartphone leads to the development of laziness in people. The modern technologies do not allow people to think, thus worsening the cognitive process.
The results also showed that a continuous use of smartphones leads to regular disputes, quarrels, and even divorces. It is caused by the fact that both men and woman, permanently playing with their smartphones, forget not only about the romantic relations but also about a spouse. The quality of family relations depends on the frequency of the use of social networks. The more time people spend on their smartphones, the more they start living the lives of other people. In such a situation, their lives seem not so interesting. It affects the family relations, leading to the continuous quarrels and conflicts. They often feel disappointment and contempt. Among the negative physiological effects of the excessive use of smartphones, the respondents highlighted sleep disorders and the absence of physical activity, balanced diet, and personal hygiene. Moreover, the extremal selfies made by means of modern smartphones are dangerous not only for the physical but also for the psychological state of a person.
Summing up the results of the conducted research, it is possible to draw a conclusion that smartphones have strongly entered the life of people all over the world. Both children and adults do not imagine their life without a smartphone. It is always present with a person everywhere, either on the street, at school, at the cinema, during the meeting with friends, at work, or even in a bathroom. Without noticing it, people become more addicted to smartphones and the Internet. Despite a great deal of advantages of smartphones, there are also many negative effects of the excessive use of smartphones. They include nervousness, anxiety, sleep disorders, psychological problems, sound hallucinations, and fear of missing a call or being offline. Thus, having analyzed the problem of the negative effects of smartphones on people, it is possible to say that the thesis of the given research was proved.
The conducted survey showed that most smartphone users know that they do harm to their health. However, nobody is ready to refuse it. The electromagnetic radiation is one of the main negative effects of modern smartphones. It cannot be easily perceived by people, thus leading to the total starvation of a human organism with the functional change of a brain activity and a fatal outcome. A continuous influence of an electromagnetic radiation, even at a rather feeble level, can cause cancer diseases, a loss of memory, and impotence and even increase the tendency to suicide. The electromagnetic radiation promotes the change of a hormonal level of people, increases the level of chromosomal aberrations, and causes the changes in the reproductive system. The complexity of the problem consists not only in the influence on the health of the population but also on health and intelligence of the future generations.