If my mother is to be believed, my smartphone is the reason behind everything that is wrong in my life and with me as a person.
Dump that smartphone.
Not being able to focus?
Dump that smartphone.
(All together now) Dump that smartphone.
You get the idea. And honestly, brown moms telling you to get rid of your smartphones and blaming it for everything that is wrong in the world is as mainstream and obvious as kittens being cute.
Smartphones may have become air to our social lungs, but just like normal air (ask us Delhiites), they too come with their share of pollutants. And while you keep hearing everyone and their grandmothers telling you how you need to use your smartphone less, the message has started to come from places you would least expect it from Smartphone companies themselves.
Yes, you read that right: smartphone manufacturers are telling users not to use smartphones. Not all the time, mind you. They just seem to get these calls of conscience from time to time. In the not-too-distant past, we have had brands like Nokia and Motorola telling us how we should break up with our smartphones every once in a while. And now we are hearing the same PSA from Vivo, which is asking us to ghost our smartphones.
In its latest ad starring Aamir Khan, the brand is asking users to switch their phones off and focus on more important things like family. Now, we would have understood if this message was coming from a counseling facility or as part of a “how to save your marriage guide 101,” but the fact that a smartphone manufacturer is telling you to use your smartphone less is like Pablo Escobar taking out an ad on how drugs are extremely harmful or fuel companies telling you to switch to an electric mode of transportation.
It just does not make sense!
In fact, this whole “do not use our products” trend that many brands are following and sounding holier-than-thou in the process is just plain confusing, mainly because it is so contradictory to what they do most of the time, with brands launching more smartphones than ever before and bundling features at much lower prices than ever before, it has become a lot easier for the consumers to upgrade their smartphones than ever before. And this is what smartphone brands launch new devices for. Or at least you would think so.
Now, we all know smartphones are causing as many problems as they are solving, if not more. There are reports that have linked an increased rate of depression, anxiety, and stress with smartphone usage and do not even get us started on how they are killing the planet. But we are not getting into that here.
The problem, in our opinion, is that brands are breeding smartphones like rabbits and then putting the burden of dealing with them on the consumer. So they launch a new smartphone every other month (sometimes every other week) and coax you to buy it, and will then release an ad telling you not to use it! Because, hey, family comes first.
It is the lack of consistency that is disturbing. These “switch off” ads are inevitably launched around festivals or holidays. The brands then dust their hands off any responsibility and move on to make other ads telling you about how great their smartphones are and how you should buy them right away. Bizarre, right?
What is sad is that phone brands are taking such an odd route when less confusing and controversial methods are available. Today, almost every smartphone out there comes with features that enable the users to restrict smartphone usage (think of Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Digital Wellbeing) – features that take into account your screen time or time spent on a particular application(s) and notify you when you reach your set time limit. These seem to be better and more practical ways of controlling phone use or avoiding phone addiction. Ignoring these and just focusing on putting your phone away (yes, that very phone that they earlier told you was a must-have and a beast and the coolest thing since sliced bread) just seems like a gimmick.
If phone brands really want to address this issue, they should find better solutions than to just releasing occasional ads that go against everything that they highlight most of the time. We are not saying that smartphone brands do not care about how their products are affecting our lives, but if they really care, then they should not be handing out candies as often as they do and then telling kids that candies are bad for you and all your teeth will rot and fall off by the time you are 30.
As simple as that.