SMARTPHONES are so widely used that they have become something of a social evil. People slouch into their iPhones or androids, sucked into a cyber world buzzing with all kinds of distractions: Likes and Shares, Tweets and WhatsApp messages, YouTube and music videos, newsfeeds, Snapchat and WeChat, the noise never stops. Having said that, anyone without a smartphone must surely be from a dinosaur age, unenlightened by the vast resources out there, that wondrous world we call the Internet.
As a millennium baby, I have a distinct memory of using a hunk of an Oxford with a dark blue jacket when I was ten. The speed in which I looked up a word must have been ten times slower than doing the same thing using my online Oxford or dictionary.com. That’s because poor modern kids like us can’t quite figure out the order of our alphabets, a problem that gets worse with the last nine or ten letters. I would, for instance, not know what comes before and after “u.” Watch me look up a “u” word, and you’d hear me humming a super-fast ABC with my fingers moving along, marking out each letter before I slow down at its approach. Now, replay this for as many times as there are troublesome letters in the word. Not fun at all.
So yes, in the name of expanding our vocabulary, a smartphone, or a tablet, or a laptop, or a computer, is an absolute necessity. And that’s just only the beginning. When I sit in front of my MacBook, the world is, snap, at my fingertips.
Want to learn more about all the kinds of volcanoes that have existed on this earth, just go to Wikipedia or YouTube. But first, consult the mighty Google, which spits out page after page of information. That’s why we have that saying, “Google is your best friend.” And best friend it is indeed, because part of a student’s life depends on how savvy you are at research. With Google, you can be ultra-resourceful even in your pajamas.
Speaking of pajamas, one of the best things about electronic devices is that you can organize a study group chat from the comfort of home. Just recently, nine of my classmates got together for a geography test revision at night on Skype. Using Google Drive, each of us could call up, on our individual screens, a shared Food and Resources Powerpoint. To reinforce key points, we appended Post-it styled comments, slide by slide. It is group revision at its best with none of the logistic hassles of coming together at a central location.
You can certainly think of all kinds of horror stories associated with electronic devices, tales of distraction that can eat away hours of your study time. Think of all the surfing time on social media, the inane Tweets such as “I’m gonna fail my SS test today. YAY!” or the mindless diversion of morphing your face on Snapchat, or the ceaseless scrolling up and down to check out OOTD Instagram shots over the Chinese New Year. These are time wasters, for sure, but none can be as addictive as Pewdiepie (the most-subscribed Youtuber in the world) or the two MOBA games: League of Legends and Dota 2.
So, what’s a student supposed to do? Or a parent, or a teacher? Well, the adults can go ahead and scream, scold, nag, but for us students, life would still be the same, bursting with distractions. The only thing we could do differently is to use social media wisely and responsibly.
Chester Chua, Secondary Four
For more essays by Chester, visit Chester Writes.
This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2015 exam, Question #4:
Do electronic devices, such as tablets or smartphones, help or hinder students in their studies?