We live in a world where we are almost always looking down at our phones. We can’t seem to pull ourselves away. Historically, because we’ve become more attached to our phone screens since smartphones came on the market, will 5G dominate more than just the tech world? There is a sense of curiosity as to its implications and impact on how we will live.
There is no denying that we are already a generation of phone addicts. The question is though, will 5G make it worse?
Before we dive into the impacts of mobile phone use on our behavior, let’s first take a quick look at what 5G is.
5G, also known as 5th generation wireless, is the successor of the 4G/LTE wireless data connection that we have on our devices today. Currently, information takes approximately 100 milliseconds to travel across different networks. With 5G, this time will be reduced to 1 millisecond. Along with transmitting information faster, 5G also brings higher data bandwidth, reduced energy use per bit transferred, and higher concurrent device use.
Digital technology is becoming intertwined with almost every aspect of our lives socially and professionally. 5G is set to go beyond just creating better mobile broadband connectivity and motivate new innovations in various industries like health, education, and agriculture. On a micro-level, there is a high likelihood that it will trigger a change in human behavior beyond mobile device usage.
Mobile phone companies are already bracing themselves for 5G and some of them have actually already made their first moves. Smartphones that are to be released later this year and even the recently launched ones are highlighting 5G-compatibility features. For example, Apple’s latest update, iOS 12.2, added a “5Ge” icon on their iPhones. On the other hand, mobile phone networks, like AT&T, have been hyping their 5G connectivity feature to their subscribers. However, controversies arose as researchers claim that they are exaggerating 5G availability, like how they did with 4G according to rural carriers.
Regardless of controversies, the promise of having faster internet speed has definitely piqued the world’s interest. With this acceleration comes the question of whether or not there is a possibility of increased phone use (and therefore possibly more cases of addiction) across users.
Gratification fuels the human mind and increasing internet speed fosters higher expectations for instant gratification. The more we are able to easily access the information we crave or the ability to perform tasks quickly, the more satisfaction our brains achieve. With the idea of instant gratification, having the patience to wait is no longer an option.
In psychology, instant gratification, otherwise known as immediate gratification, pertains to the desire and tendency to pass up a better future benefit and instead, achieve a less rewarding and quicker one. Human nature comes with the tendency to want things as soon as we can get them. Relating this to the usage of mobile phones, faster internet speeds translates into quicker access to online pleasure triggers. E.g. social media, streaming online music, and films, etc.
There is no doubt that 5G will be bringing in more convenience for our day-to-day living and in our academic or work life. However, the kind of instant gratification that it can bring about may also have negative impacts.
According to Pew Research, the technology that we have now affects the way we learn. The study mentions three key skills that humans must have in order to absorb information. These are patience, curiosity, and willingness to question assumptions. Because mobile technology brings a faster sense of satisfaction for users, there is a tendency that instead of taking the time to develop a skill, people are more inclined to chat with their peers online or play mobile games. At the same time, the ability to think critically and conceptual understanding can also be affected as the internet can give answers at a click of a button. This easy and immediate access to information causes the youth, especially, to not question what they discover anymore since answers are already there. For these reasons, today’s technology can indeed be detrimental to people’s learning processes.
5G may cause us to have a greater sense of dependency on our mobile phones. Even now, we use them all the time in the different aspects of our lives, whether it’s for communication, research, or working out. Our mobile phones have indeed become our best friends. Only time will tell how further attached to our mobile devices we will be if the desire for gratification overtakes responsible usage of our phones.
5G will influence the way we will live in the future, but it will still undoubtedly have its benefits. As long as we have the discipline to use our phones responsibility, we do not have to worry about phone addiction being a greater problem in the future.