“Smartphones as Security Blankets” Prevent Us from Living Fully Human Lives

“Smartphones as Security Blankets” Prevent Us from Living Fully Human Lives

It is an irony that the very devices that are causing us so much stress—through non-stop social media, doom-scrolling the latest pandemic or war news, the fear of missing out on what is going on right now—have also become pacifiers that make us less likely to actually do something.

(LifeSiteNews)—A Saturday column in the Washington Post posed an unsettling question: “Are smartphones serving as adult pacifiers?” It begins with the story of a UPenn assistant professor observing that while working on her PhD, she often reached for her phone when she was stressed. “Just holding it made me feel good,” Shiri Melumud said. “It gave me a sense of ease or calm. It was similar to children who seek out their pacifiers when they are stressed. For many of us, our phone represents an attachment object, much as a security blanket or teddy bear does for a child.”

At first glance, the comparison doesn’t seem apt. After all, our smartphones often cause us active stress — social media companies intentionally use anger, fear, division, lust, or loneliness to monetize our attention and drag our eyeballs past more ads to keep their tabs running higher. But Melumud’s comparison went further. Like children, she noted, we often “become frantic” when we misplace our omnipresent smartphones, which serve as digital security blankets. We use them constantly, and for everything. We route our lives through these devices.

But as it turns out, the role of smartphones in our lives may be even larger than we thought. According to the Post: “[S]cientists studying the relationship between people and their smartphones also have come up with additional insights in recent years about how people behave when using them, including discovering that people can draw needed comfort by their mere presence.” In short, we genuinely form “a deep personal connection with our phones” that become, in some senses, extensions of our personalities—and we open up more on our phones than in other spheres of our lives.

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