5 Essential Life Skills We’ve Lost to Smartphones—and How We Can Have Them Again

5 Essential Life Skills We’ve Lost to Smartphones—and How We Can Have Them Again

We often think of innovative and singular pieces of technology such as the smartphone as symbols of progress—objects that not only make life easier for all of us but also things that represent a major shift in the way we interact with the world around us.

Be that as it may, the convenience brought about by technology also often comes at cost. With smartphones, it is the fact that many of the time-honored life skills we used to possess and have actually done us a lot of good are quickly eroding because of our over-reliance on the tools that these phones provide. In this article, we’ll talk about some of these skills and what we can do to gain them back. Often, our smartphones can even be instrumental to the goal.

Navigating Urban Environments

With Google Maps, Waze, and so many other navigation applications available today for both the Apple iOS and Android platforms, it’s quite easy to become too reliant on GPS for the successful navigation of even our own cities and neighborhoods. However, according to a study by researchers from the University College London, not being able to exercise our navigation skills the way our forefathers used to can cause our brains’ hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to become less active and less useful. The hippocampus is the part of our brain that is responsible for navigation and spatial orientation, while the prefrontal cortex is associated with planning.

To lessen your reliance on GPS navigators and map applications, consider learning your directions the old fashioned way—by using a paper map and counting on landmarks to get a sense of where you are. You can also study the map on your smartphone, but don’t use the GPS feature to feed you directions all the time. This will not only prevent parts of your brain from experiencing atrophy, this will also allow you to gain a very useful skill.

Remember that your smartphone will not always be reliable. For instance, GPS will not really work all that well in shaded areas, your mobile data could run out or malfunction, or your battery could die on you. Although you could argue that you could get yourself a powerbank or another smartphone, you’ll still feel more confident and much safer if you know your way around, especially when you’re visiting a new city or country.

Doing Basic Mathematical Computations

Another life skill that has lost out to the convenience brought about by smartphones is performing basic mathematical computations. Yes, it’s so easy to use your phone’s calculator, but being overly dependent on it can diminish your overall mathematical competence, which is bad, especially if you belong to a younger age group. Many studies have shown that mathematical competence increases a person’s chance of being ready for college—and by extension, for life as a professional. In other words, math skills can help you become more successful in life, despite what some jokes or memes might lead you to think.

Naturally, if you want to be better at mental arithmetic, you have to lay off the calculator once in a while. Whether you’re computing for your pamasahe on the bus, for your change at the grocery checkout counter, or for your share in a restaurant bill, do it first mentally before confirming with your smartphone if you got the figures correct.

Memorizing Phone Numbers

Back in the day, you either jotted down important phone numbers in a phonebook or you learned them by heart. Memorizing phone numbers was a very useful skill, especially in situations when you needed to get help from a loved one or from your local emergency agency.

These days, it’s so easy to take this skill for granted due to our always-on, always-online lifestyle. Important phone numbers are just a tap on the smartphone screen away. But this could prove to be disastrous in the event that you lose access to your mobile phone. Someone might steal your phone, you could drop it somewhere with you none the wiser, or you could get locked out of it if you type your PIN code incorrectly several times in a row. If you need to make a phone call, you would then need to borrow someone else’s smartphone or use a landline. However, this will only make sense if you were able to memorize the numbers you need to call.

It goes without saying that the solution here is to start memorizing phone numbers again. Important ones include the phone numbers of your parents, your siblings, your spouse and kids, your best friends, your office or school, your insurance company, and your local emergency numbers (police, fire department, and hospital). Since you already have these numbers recorded in your smartphone, it’s much easier to have a look at them from time to time so you can get them emblazoned in your mind eventually.

Writing by Hand

Today’s millennials surely remember the days when they were kids in school—when everything was written by hand, whether it’s for taking notes in class or for creating presentations on whole sheets of cartolina and manila paper. Contrast this to the present, when typing on a keyboard or on screens has practically replaced handwriting in many settings. This raises the question of whether or not handwriting will still remain useful in the near future. The answer is yes, at least according to one study conducted by researchers from Columbia University and Indiana University. The researchers have demonstrated that writing by hand is essential to stimulating regions of the brain that are associated with successful reading. In short—even in today’s modern world—handwriting, reading, and comprehension still go hand in hand.

In view of this, parents would be well advised to encourage their children to continue practicing their handwriting skills. After all, it is a skill that will continue to be important well into adulthood, especially since we still rely on signatures and handwritten documents in legal and business settings today. If your smartphone or tablet is compatible with a stylus or comes with one, it will even be much easier to have your kids practice their writing skills on these devices. 

Having Face-to-Face Interactions

Smartphones today have become a perennial companion for many people. They’ve come to depend on their phones for all sorts of entertainment—be it playing games, watching their favorite series, or listening to the musical tracks and podcasts they love. Phones have also become the go-to “people repellant” for many of us, since it’s become so much easier to pretend to be busy with our phones than to interact with others around us. Even traditional face-to-face interactions have now been largely supplanted by technology, with the use of messaging apps, social networking sites, forums, and dating apps in an all-time high.

The irony in being so connected digitally is the fact that many of us become more and more isolated in real life. And that’s a bummer since science has proven time and again that social interaction offers many positive benefits. Something as simple as small talks with neighbors and strangers can improve our health, while face-to-face contact with friends can reduce our risk of depression.

Instead of relying on your smartphone for digital interactions, why not use it as a leverage to help you meet people in real life? Go message your friends and meet up with them at least once every two weeks. Moreover, instead of lurking in your favorite fandom forums or Facebook groups, why not set up a local conference or meet-and-greet? It’s a great way to meet lots of new people who share your interests, a few of which are bound to become really good friends with you in real life.

Here at Poundit, we don’t only sell gadgets to people, we also advocate the responsible and healthy use of technology. What other life skills do you think we all need a refresher on?

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