Cell phones and cell phone technology have advanced greatly over the years, improving the quality of the devices available and enabling more users than ever to get their hands at least a basic model. In fact, approximately 81% of Americans are said to own a mobile phone in 2017.
However, one must ask if we have now crossed the line, becoming too dependant on these devices in our daily lives.
Today’s cell phones are far more than just a phone. They serve as our daily planner, camera, music streaming device, portable video streaming and gaming system, and connection to all aspects of the world of social media. In fact, it can be argued that modern users are surfing the web, browsing social media and using their various apps FAR more than they are actually making phone calls. As we move towards ‘smart homes’ and the further inclusion of technology in our society some users can even control the lights and thermostat at home from their device from anywhere, at any time. At what point have we crossed the line and become too dependent?
Mental health professionals have even identified ‘phone addiction’ as a real condition. Users forced to give up their phone for any period of time may experience withdrawal symptoms such as feelings of anxiety or depression, or physical symptoms including increased blood pressure and heart rate. More users than ever before, especially those of the younger generation, are unable to part themselves from this device for even the shortest period of time.
Interested in highlighting this problem in our modern society, American photographer Eric Pickersgill created his latest project, ‘Removed,’ Pickersgill shoots photos depicting everyday Americans and their constant use of digital devices. However, he then removes the cell phones and devices from their hands before taking the shot. The result? A series of photographs that leave you feeling disturbed and unsettled by just how far this dependence has grown in the United States today.
When asked where he got the idea, Pickersgill explains that he was inspired while sitting in a café one morning. He described his observations, the very scene that would lead to the start of ‘Removed’:
“Family sitting next to me at Illium café in Troy, NY is so disconnected from one another. Not much talking. Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. I am saddened by the use of technology for interaction in exchange for not interacting. This has never happened before and I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now.”
It’s a scene that could have unfolded anywhere across the nation, where we see couples sitting on what appears to be a date with their phones up between them rather than talking. Friends all go out to dinner together, only to stare at digital screens rather than enjoying one another’s company face to face. Car accidents occur regularly, either due to someone who couldn’t look up from their phone to check for traffic before crossing the road or, arguably more disturbing, couldn’t put down their phone for 2 seconds while operating a vehicle.
Pickersgill hopes that his work will help to open our eyes to this growing problem before the social and physical implications extend so far that we can’t remedy the error of our ways. He calls on users to acknowledge our dependence on this ‘phantom limb,’ recognizing it’s addictive possibility in our lives.
Check out these photographs from the Removed series and see just how powerful they are for yourself!