A classmate of mine recently tweeted a link to an article she intended to use for her blog that made me wonder about a topic that I haven’t for a while. Information and communication technologies are supposed to bring everyone closer together and close gaps between people, but are they now making these gaps larger now? Everywhere I go I see people looking at their smart phones instead of doing anything else, such as talking or eating.
The article my classmate had tweeted lead to me to main source of the article, named “Disruptions: More Connected, Yet More Alone“ which is written by Nick Bilton of The New York Times as response to thoughts that a Youtube video called “I Forgot My Phone” brought to his mind.
The video follows comedian Charlene deGuzman through a normal day where people are always looking at their phones doing things, regardless of if they are at a concert, a birthday party, or even in bed with a lover. To me, this shows quite nakedly that our society is becoming overly focused on our smart phones. What I found most damning in this is that it wasn’t until the video was forty seconds in that I realized what the video was about. It was not until a conversation at a lunch gathering had died completely due to everyone at it being on their phones that I realized, everyone being on their phones is supposed to be out of the ordinary. I have already grown so accustomed to seeing people on their phones.
Speaking as an outsider who has never owned a smart phone, this certainly seems to be the reality we live in. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in class and many of my classmates seemed far more interested in their phones than anything the instructor is saying. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve made a few people hate me when we split into groups because of my insistence that we stay on task. I will admit, if our group needed a quick fact or a spell check, then their attention to their phone makes sense. I’m speaking more to the people who were not talking with the other group members, were only looking at their phone, and grew annoyed when I tried to involve them with the group.
Just look at how much some people go through when they go out to do something as simple as go out to eat for a night. According to Bilton,
People make dinner reservations on OpenTable; check in on Foursquare when they arrive at the restaurant; take a picture of their food to share on Instagram; post on Twitter a joke they hear during the meal; review the restaurant on Yelp; then, finally, coordinate a ride home using Uber. (Bilton)
Neglecting that I only know what two of these applications are, I can’t imagine this would have seemed all that normal, even as little as six years ago. If someone isn’t involved online with all of these apps and online conventions, it is quite easy to get completely lost in the flow of information that others take in. I imagine OpenTable is a reservation tool, that is simple enough to gather from the article, but Foursquare, Yelp, and Uber are mysteries to me. The virtual world is drowning out the real world. This is how we find our society.
Now someone could say that this change won’t last. People will get over it and move onto something else. I can’t help but laugh about this perception because I thought the exact same thing about social media when it was really rising to prominence. Some places have even started implementing anti smart phone policies. For example, “A number of New York restaurants… have prohibited people from photographing their food” (Bilton). When I was a child this would have seemed like a law or a rule from a book of outdated and antiquated laws. I consider it truly bothering that it is being enforced and needed in 2014. I can’t help but agree with Bilton when he says, “that maybe life is just better led when it is lived rather than viewed.”