Who’s watching you online? Smartphones make personal information accessible on the go
So you’re walking around campus minding your own business when all of a sudden you see your ex in the distance with a new flame.
We’ve all been there, so what do you do?
Simple, pull out your iPhone and pretend you have friends to interact with via social media when in reality you are stalking his Twitter to find out who this new girl is.
“Do I stalk people on my iPhone? Of course I do. All the time,” sophomore Abbie Emmons said.
Seventy-three percent of college students were owners of smart phones. That is quite the jump compared to 27 percent of students in 2009, according to Ball State University research published in February of 2013.
That means 46 percent more people have the ability to find out what anyone around them has been up to with just a few taps of their finger.
“I got an iPhone because it was the trend.” It’s not like it really helps me in school,” Emmons said. “It’s so easy to just Twitter-watch people and know what they are doing, but I don’t think that’s the iPhone’s fault.”
Smart phones have a wide range of uses, according to a study done by the University of Colorado.
Among these uses are social networking. But social networking has gone beyond Twitter and Facebook and into apps such as Banjo and Sonar, which use geolocation to track people’s location and allow others to see their social media profiles while in their vicinity.
Banjo is an “iOS and Android application that delivers real-time social network data from any location in the world,” according to Social News Daily.
Sonar is an app that introduces you to nearby strangers by showing you their social media presence and possible points of common interest so you can have an in to start a conversation.
“I think it makes situations easier and it doesn’t become creepy unless it’s obsessive,” sophomore Luke Seimer said. “I think it’s human nature to be nosy.”
Theo Meisner, a tech savvy junior, thinks apps like Banjo and Sonar are deemed creepy because people are uncomfortable with these new ideas.
“Humans are moving away from the individual and more toward the collective mind and apps like Banjo and Sonar are just small steps toward that,” Meisner said. “Since change is scary, people will naturally be uncomfortable with that.”
Students are using their phones and apps to feel connected with the world around them, according to Ball State findings.
“For many college students, their lives revolve around their smartphones,” said Michael Hanley, associate professor of advertising and director of Ball State’s Institute for Mobile Media Research, in a press release about his findings. “Not only is it a phone, but they use it to email, send texts, download and listen to music and access social media sites.”
Blake Mankin, 19, was recently forced by his mother to upgrade his traditional flip phone to a smartphone.
“I was comfortable with what I had,” Mankin said. “I like simplicity.”
After the switch, though, Mankin said he would never go back.
“That’s the scary thing, you can’t go back. Now that I have it, I have to have it,” he said.
Dr. Sybril Bennett, associate professor of journalism at Belmont University, is a technology advocate.
“To be connected in the digital age, smart phones are necessary,” Bennett said. “But any tool can be a distraction. It’s a choice.”
Using a phone as a tool in education for conducting research, establishing relationships and building one’s reputation is the best way to use a smartphone to your advantage, Bennett said.
But Emmons disagrees.
“I don’t have an advantage because I have a smartphone, it’s just another thing,” Emmons said.
But Dominic Consentino, a junior, sees the advantages.
“Finding areas of interest nearby is made effortless, and then you can turn around and use your GPS to get you there,” he said. “Having the internet constantly at your disposal is great for answering any question on the spot, like why did my car just break down?”
And being on a campus where shameless artist self-promotion is everywhere, smart phones are helping move the music industry forward, Mankin said.
“It has some advantages as an artist because it gives me access to social networks at the touch of my fingertips,” he said. “I don’t really need a computer at all.”
But Emmons thinks smartphones are taking a toll on social relationships. People are transitioning from face-to-face relationships to screen-to-screen relationships.
In Ball State’s study, in 2012, only 51 percent of students reported making at least one phone call a day, compared to 89 percent of students in 2009.
Smart phones are causing more people to become socially awkward, Mankin said.
“I saw a family of four out to eat and they were all on their iPhones, not talking to one another, and that really tripped me out,” he said. “Texting and social media are making people more awkward face-to face. It’s just something to do when there’s nothing to do.”
Getting wrapped up in all the apps can keep you distracted for hours and not even notice it, Emmons said.
In the University of Colorado study, a reported 75 percent of college-aged smartphone users are on their phones when they have idle time. Whether that be in between classes, on public transportation or in line at the grocery store or at their favorite coffee shop, which are all opportunities for interaction with the world around them.
“Having social media at all times is cool, but it becomes something that takes up too much time and sucks people in,” Consentino said.
So the next time you’re faced with an awkward encounter, don’t feel bad about stalking your ex while pretending to ignore him because with these new apps there’s a chance you’re being social media stalked too.
“Some people with smart phones don’t maximize it,” Bennett said. “The key is using the tool and not letting the tool use you.”