Every time I look at new submissions, I’m staggered by the sheer number of pictures of people staring at their smartphones. Sure, the lighting / scenery in these images is lovely / interesting and the people are diverse. (Seriously, our love for our phones is probably the great worldwide unifier we’ve all somehow glossed over.) But these people are choosing to interact with a small box of metal, glass and plastic in their hands instead of engaging with the world around them. I catch myself doing the same thing.
Stock photography is meant to be highly relevant, so it makes sense that I’m seeing more of these pictures because we humans look at our phones… all the damn time. In fact, research has shown that’s about 46 times a day. (A new study pegged this number at about 150 times for millennials, which just shows that our relationship with technology may be age dependent.) Most of the time, 72% of us are no more than 5 feet away from our phones. And when we forget our phones? Panic: over half of us would return home to retrieve the errant device. (That attachment is called “nomophobia”, short for no-mobile-phone phobia.) Check out your own personal level of dependency.
It’s not clear what most of these people are doing, which is why these images work so well in advertising. They could be chatting on Slack, working remotely, sending an invoice, saying good night to their kids or scrolling through Insta feeds, cringing at the news or staring at LOLcats. They could be doing just about anything and as the creative, you write the story.
The smartphone revolution started in 2007 when Apple released the first iPhone. This year, over 36% of the global population is projected to use a smartphone, with 2.53 billion users. That’s up from about 10% in 2011, a staggering increase in only 7 years. While much has been written about smartphone “addiction”, Hackernoon argues that the resulting decade represents a significant cultural change that has transformed how we interact with the world. And I think these images prove it. Our phones are pocket-sized computers, allowing us to do nearly everything from almost anywhere. Which is great, awe-inspiring, sad and scary all at the same time.
Together, we have walked on the moon, created democracy, developed language and writing, invented electricity, built the pyramids and cured disease. I can’t figure out if our love for our phones will help or hinder our next great strides. Someone should try to get everyone in the entire world to look at their smartphone at the exact same time. I’m sure it’ll happen. I hope it’ll be for something monumentally important and also good, but this is us, so it’ll probably be either something really ridiculous or absolutely terrifying.