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September 12, 2012

On second thought: Maybe smartphones make us 'SuperStupid'?

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On Monday, I wrote a story arguing that smartphones have the potential to make us "superhuman." Commenters on the article sure didn't like that phrasing. "Smartphones also make us SuperStupid," wrote one commenter, WWWYKI. "Just watch somebody with kids in the backseat as they text 'lol wut' and run red lights.

" Fair point. For all of the benefits of an always-connected society -- one where phones help people in rural areas get information they never had access to, or bring medical professionals, at least virtually, into difficult-to-reach locations -- there are plenty of drawbacks, too.

As the commenters pointed out, these include physical dangers.

"The next time a teenager almost kills you while they are texting little love letters while driving you better hope you are superhuman!" wrote open400.

In 2010 in the United States, more than 3,000 people died in crashes that involved distracted driving, which includes sending texts and using the phone, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. And more than one in 10 fatal crashes involving people younger than 20 were reported to be related to distracted driving.

So, clearly, there is room for concern on this front.

Other commenters brought up the potential impact of smartphones on our brains. A 2011 World Health Organization report found that radiation from mobile phones that are held up to a person's ear can possibly increase the risk of cancer. The group placed these risks in the same category as those from lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

One possible solution: Some cell phone users increasingly use their phones as everything but. "There are so many ways of keeping in constant touch with people that voice calls are almost too invasive now," one woman told CNN last year. Then there were complaints about what phones are doing to society. This was a big part of the online conversation.

"Smartphones have created a generation of narcissistic snobs who think they know everything," wrote Chemtrailed. "Instead it's created a bunch of Google heads who wouldn't know how to blow their nose without 'Googling' how."

Here's another, from jimmy619: "Superhuman? Really? I look around and see people getting fatter, dumber, poorer (not to mention ruder) in spite of all their gadgets. Not my idea of superhuman."

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