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UPDATED: June 15, 2015 NO. 25 JUNE 18, 2015
Is It Possible to Stay Away From Smartphones?


Recently, the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) issued a report based on a survey, claiming that electronic gadgets such as smartphones are so overused in daily life that the relationships such as those between husbands and wives and parents and children have been affected to varying extents. Thus, the federation has put forward a proposal, calling on cellphone addicts to switch off their devices at least one hour a day and spend more quality time with their families. This proposal means to strengthen the bonds between family members and to improve people's health and wellbeing.

Nowadays, the cellphone has become a daily necessity for most people. It is not only used for business and personal purposes, but also in many other ways, such as reading news, shopping online, playing games and exchanging messages on social networking apps. Some people allegedly even choose to communicate via smartphones when they are in the same room, rather than talking face to face. Couples' relationships have been damaged just because one or both of the pair concentrate too much on their smartphones at the expense of properly communicating with their significant others. Given these issues, some have welcomed the ACWF's proposal as an effort in restoring the relationships at risk from the overuse of cellphones. However, others have expressed doubt, arguing that to switch off the phone for one hour constitutes a symbolic gesture, a tokenistic allowance which will do little to improve the state of interpersonal communication. They also maintain it's unfair to use smartphones as a convenient scapegoat for the deterioration of interactions between people.


Chen Guangjiang (www.gmw.cn): Will the powering-off of cellphones for one hour per day prove capable of preventing the encroachment of the handsets into the daily lives of tens of thousands of Chinese families? Just like Earth Hour, a global initiative for environmental awareness that encourages people all around the world to turn off the nonessential lights for an hour on the event day, cannot tangibly reduce energy consumption, this proposal constitutes a modest suggestion. In certain cases, however, the power of such a symbolic action should not be underestimated. It is likely that switching off one's phones may help people to view things in a different light and maybe even to reevaluate their priorities.

Besides, in my humble opinion, the fact that many people keep their smart phones on 24/7 may just mean they are deluding themselves into thinking that they are more important than they actually are!

Wang Chuantao (Workers' Daily): Nowadays, smartphones and Wi-Fi seem to have supplanted dogs as "man's best friend!" On the one hand, smartphones make it possible for us to access a multitude of up-to-the-minute information and brings many conveniences to our daily lives; on the other, smartphones are beginning to own us instead of the other way round. From early morning till midnight, from home to the office, mobile phones follow us and are omnipresent in our lives.

People's obsession with mobile phones is impinging on the time they actually spend with others and affecting their social skills. An online survey conducted with 31,344 people shows that 73.3 percent keep their smartphones on 24 hours a day and 43 percent claimed that they even play with their smartphones or laptops during family gatherings or when socializing with friends. Even when spending time with spouses, some people are loath to put their gadgets aside. With the flourishing of mobile games and apps, these digital assets are also increasingly blurring the distinction between work time and leisure time, making it almost impossible for people to concentrate on the job at hand.

The ACWF's proposal is more of symbolic significance than of actual practical use. The message the ACWF seems to be trying to convey is that smartphones are distracting users from the real life and that life will still go on, and maybe even improve, if you power off your smartphones for one or more hours a day.

This proposal does not mean to deny the convenience brought by modern hi-tech products, but people should remember that they are not the slaves of electronic devices, but rather should be the masters.

Wang Junrong (www.gxnews.com.cn): In the era of the Internet, it's only natural that people bring their cellphones with them wherever they go. Some smartphone addicts will take out their smartphones and begin to brush the screen whenever a spare moment comes to hand. Extreme examples such as the following have been encountered: Friends that have not seen each other for a long time finally meet at a gathering, but seem not to be interested in talking with one another, preferring instead to go on social networking tools such as WeChat. Some diners even prefer to exchange views on their food through WeChat rather than actually talk to the person sitting opposite them. While cellphones are undoubtedly an important part of our daily lives, it is vital that we retain a sense of proportion.

On the face of it, the ACWF's proposal does not actually strictly demand that people turn off their phones for one hour every day. What underlies this proposal is a reminder that people should spend more time with their family. Gathering at supper has always presented families with a good opportunity for everyone to interact with each other and exchange news regarding what has happened to them that day. Is a family where every individual member is busy with their own cellphones still a family? Blood ties are precious, so it would be prudent for us not to let modern technology deprive us of this special connection with our loved ones.

Huang Qichao (Changsha Evening News): The harm caused by staring at a tablet or smartphone screen is widely known. Now, it has been established that the overuse of cellphones is damaging relationships among family members. Keeping this in mind, the ACWF's proposal makes a lot of sense. However, it has nonetheless met with ridicule from some. For those who are very caught up in their business, this measure may prove unfeasible as it means they may miss some important calls. One could, however, read the ACWF's suggestion as advising you to leave your phones alone for one hour every day, so that you can spend this time taking care of your health and relationship with your family, as opposed to being perennially glued to these smartphone "monoliths."


Liu Yunxi (www.zynews.com): Whether or not this initiative will really help to bolster familial connections remains a moot point. I, for one, do not hold high expectations. Apart from playing with our cellphones, we have at our disposal a multitude of other ways in which we can kill time. Those who turn off their phones will not necessarily spend the time with their family. They may go out to meet friends or spend the time reading instead.

The key to improving family relationships lies not in switching off our phones, but in our desire to spend time with family members. If people are willing and able to be together with their loved ones, even their phones will not prove sufficient distraction. Placing the blame for the deterioration of family relationships solely on electronic gadgets is surely going a step too far.

Therefore, while switching off cellphones will protect people from electronic radiation, there are no grounds to believe that this will automatically help to boost families' happiness.

Ran Yu (Business Daily of International Tourism Island): People tend to spend a large amount of time on their smartphones, time that might otherwise have been spent on communicating within one's family or participating in social gatherings, leading to a sum decline in the quality of their interpersonal relationships. Given this, the ACWF's proposal to put one's mobile phones to one side for at least one hour every day is eminently reasonable.

However, in this era of the mobile Internet, what an impractical idea it is! In any case, if the happiness some couples experience in their married life hangs on them switching off smartphones, their marriage is in the first place quite fragile. While it is indeed true that smartphones have caused conflicts between couples, the side effects of the use of such devices should not be so exaggerated.

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