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Catholic Vancouver Oct 31, 2017

Don't be 'handicapped' by your smartphone, young adults told

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Philosopher Chris Morrissey speaks to young adults Oct. 25 about the dangers of becoming addicted to digital devices. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—Constant swiping and typing on digital devices can handicap us, according to philosophy professor Chris Morrissey.

Speaking to dozens of young adults at a pub Oct. 25, Morrissey called cell phones a “disability” and an “addiction” that has similar effects on the brain as using drugs.

“These chips are imbedded in your flesh on a daily basis,” said Morrissey, pulling a smartphone out of his pocket. “Are they in control of you, or are you in control of them?”

Companies such as Alphabet (the parent of Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft thrive on making devices and apps more engaging, distracting, and addictive. They rake in billions of dollars a year doing so. 

“Smart people are designing things to capture your attention. They know they can make a lot of money off you if you surrender your attention,” he said. “If you are not mindful about how you are using your technology, other people are already making decisions for you.”

Those decisions include spending too much time scrolling online and supporting media giants who may be more interested in growing profits than taking care of the environment or of paying employees in Third World countries fairly.

“If you think you’re in control, have you ever had this experience: You pick up your phone, and after some swiping and clicking, you forget what you picked your phone up for?”

It’s why Morrissey calls a smartphone a disability. “This thing is handicapping you. It’s preventing you from all the love and affection you could connect with.”

But he insisted he is not anti-technology. The cure is not “total digital abstinence” or a “retreat to the wilderness with no Internet connection,” said Morrissey.

The solution is “digital resilience,” or taking stock of one’s values and goals and using social media, devices, or the Internet as tools to achieve them.

“Use this disability to build true community,” he said. “Ask yourself: what are my core values? What is most important to me? What makes me most happy? Once you know what truly makes you happy, try to align your actions with those core values. Love. Friendship.”

That flows into all aspects of digital life, including online dating, Morrissey said during a question and answer period. Gaining the courage to speak to someone in person takes more guts than tapping a profile, and shows a person values personal connection over Internet connection. 

“No risk, no reward,” he said. “Use visual tools as ways of making connections so you can get that love and affection in real life... Use these tools to do good, rather than make a few people rich.”

Morrissey lectures in logic and philosophy at Trinity Western University and teaches Greek and Latin at the Seminary of Christ the King.

His address to young adults at the Mahoney and Sons Irish Pub was hosted by Catholic After Hours, a series of networking and social events for Catholics aged 25-39. The next gathering, set for Nov. 15, will feature speaker and business owner Christian Dy and a discussion on balancing life, faith, and career.