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4G or 4D?

I'm as addicted to my smartphone as any App-savvy teenager. And I'm not talking just my reliance on Insta inspo, Words With Friends and checking three weather forecasts before I get dressed. Although I have been known to make actual 'phone calls on my device, where it really comes into its own is as a micro-computer for my peripatetic lifestyle: I'll write documents on Apple's Pages app whilst catching the ferry from my home on the Isle of Wight, update corporate Twitter accounts on the move, and shoot, edit and upload Instagram stories for another client during a dog-walk.

So yes, my smartphone is supersmart and super-useful, but I'm still grateful to put it down. Of course, it's alluring to be able to instantly discover the answer to any query that pops into your head, or show a friend a hilarious video you watched earlier, or check the latest news from wherever you are on the planet. (If you are in any doubt about the addictive properties of today's smartphone technology, read this article from the engineer who invented Facebook's Like button). But seeing Phone Zombies walking along glued to their tiny shiny screens, teenagers' shoulders rounded into a screen-viewing hunch, reminds me of Orwell's Big Brother doling out gin to the masses to keep them safely anaesthetised in 1984. In 2017 the gin may not be free, but our mobile Apps and inane games (can anyone explain the point of Candy Crush to me?) have the same mind-numbing, time-wasting, silencing effect.

Yet how can one small screen compete with our own five senses? Seeing life unfold around us, the colour and smell and crackle of the changing leaves in Autumn beats any Pinterest image seen through a cracked glass screen. Feeling the breeze on my face, while a technicolour sunset burns behind the rooftops on my evening stroll, is impossible to replicate on a device, even with the flashest filter.

I suppose the question for me is not whether the virtual world created by software wizards is good enough, but rather, why would we want it as a substitute for the incredible, awe-inspiring, sometimes damaged, dirty and deficient, yet always magical world around us?

Then I think to myself, do I only feel like this because I'm the generation who knew life before 'phones? Will my children, born into a smart-world, also realise that life trumps a device every single time? Certainly the pull of an iPad seems to exert a gravitational force on them, yet they're never as relaxed, alive and joyful as when they're 'doing' – cycling with friends, swimming in the sea, trimming the sails of a boat, cooking supper with me, decorating biscuits, building a camp in the woods (or on the sofa). I hope they remember these experiences as they become more independent from me, and choose life over a device. They'll be in the minority, I fear, but happier for it.

Last updated 13:24 on 11 June 2019

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