I have an issue with smartphones

I have an issue with smartphones

I have an issue with smartphones

This is the second in a series of posts in which I express my latest gripe. The debut complaint was about my disdain for selfies. As the title of this post suggests, yet again, modern technology and people’s misuse of smartphones play a central role in my lament. I will keep it short, won’t provide an array of scenic photographs but will hopefully feel a sense of relief after the cathartic exercise of sharing my thoughts with the willing.

Now, I am aware that the smartphone is an essential piece of kit for many people, especially those working fervently, on the move. It eases people’s lives through assisting in swift communication, the sharing of files, documents and all those sensible things that the employed regularly do. However, there are many of you, and I say you, as I don’t own a smartphone, that seem to have completely forgotten the art of communication. Worse than that, simply being polite whilst in a social situation.

Let me elaborate. I warn you though, it is approaching that beautiful time of the month for me, so it won’t be pretty. I find quite often, when I am chatting with friends, that in the middle of a conversation, they start texting, or swiping their fingers across their mode of distraction. At first, I took the paranoid approach and thought perhaps it was I, and whatever we were discussing was so dull that a peek at Facebook was far more important. But then I began to notice that it was just how people were becoming, distracted and in my opinion, rude.

I’ll give you a quick example. Some of my closest girlfriends and I recently had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to go on a road trip in northern California. It was our first morning together, and we bundled into a diner for breakfast. Immediately all three of my friends got their phones out, swiping and tapping away. It had been over nine months since I had seen two of them, and I couldn’t believe that Facebook or whatever they were doing was more important than having an actual conversation. Now, assumption is the mother of all problems, so I tried to do my best to hope that they were contacting husbands, boyfriends, and children to say they were all doing fine, but I thought that had already happened the night before. Basically, I might as well have been sat on my own and this upset me, as I hadn’t anticipated being with my homies could make me feel so isolated.

This kind of scenario seems to occur on a daily basis, and my patience with it has worn thin. Have we lost the art of being present, with those sat directly beside us? Do we seek affirmation in our hundreds of Facebook friends rather than the ones physically present? If so, this is a sad state of affairs.

When I am in England, where I once resided, I have a mobile phone. It may look smart, but for me, it is just a phone. If I walk into a shop and someone calls me whilst I am interacting with the cashier, I apologise to the person serving me, and take the call. That to me is simple common decency. The same goes if I am in a group of friends. Perhaps I am too considerate, polite, and thoughtful. I’d rather that than intimate that those surrounding me aren’t worthy of my attention, with a screen illuminating my vacant presence. I value conversation over mere connection, being present, and actually listening. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought these were fairly important values as well as useful life skills.

So, how to proceed as my posts always seem to conclude with some positive philosophical observations. Personally, I’d appreciate the use of smartphones be kept to an absolute minimum at mealtimes, whilst chatting with friends, at school, and during meetings, conferences, at the very least. If it’s necessary for you to take yourself into the virtual world, perhaps mention you will be disappearing for a moment. And perhaps I should stop caring that I am often sat waiting for people to stop staring at their screens. A concomitant withdrawal from imposing my standards of behaviour on others may also help. Urgh, I still have a long journey ahead of me.

If you have an issue with smartphones, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

41 thoughts on “I have an issue with smartphones

  1. Pingback: I have an issue with Tinder | An Activist Abroad

  2. I’m belongs to the old and boring, that only want my mobile to ring like a phone and send some text.
    While work I always had the state of the art phone, company phone that changed more or less every year – hated them …
    I’m so happy that I have got my life back *smile
    People goes out to dine and while waiting on their food everybody is on their smart phones, instead of talking and having a great time together????!!!!!
    Brilliant post.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment. I haven’t had a smartphone yet, as have been studying for a long time, and then travelling, so it seems pretty unnecessary to me. I may get one in the future, but I don’t really want the Internet following me around, wherever I go! I am on Facebook, I do have an email account, and Twitter, and I am concerned that I may have the same temptaions as others to keep having a quick look. I will refrain from getting one for as long as possible, and then have to exercise restraint!

      Like

      • You have a wonderful view on … media and gadgets.
        We need quality time away from the gadgets …. I love my media free days.
        We don’t have to be available 24/7. The world will not stop – if we don’t text back straight away. *smile
        The problem is that there will not be any “basic” phones left. Glad I have old models in my draw to use up.

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  3. Pingback: Smart phones – as dangerous as Poker/slot machines? | Something to Ponder About

  4. Absolutely agree with this – even though I know I’ve been guilty of sneaking a peek at my phone whilst with friends. It’s difficult – as a freelancer, there could always be that urgent email, and in the days when mobiles were just phones (heck, before there were mobiles!) I would often be slightly distracted with friends wondering whether I should try to get to a computer, and now I can just quickly look and know. I do think there is a difference between a quick peek (I often take my phone if I go up to the bar, for example, so I can check while I wouldn’t be talking to my friends anyway) and getting engaged in a text conversation.

    Like

    • I think we are all totally within our rights, and it is socially acceptable to check our phones once in a while. That’s perfectly normal, and we all have varying responsibilities and the phone is the perfect way to keep on top of them. Smartphones are a seriously incredible invention. But, it’s all about a time and a place.

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  5. Neat post! I completely agree with you in every single point. It can be a pain how some people try to fill every quiet second of their lives with content (which is a bad side effect due to technology improvements like the smartphones).

    I thought you might be interested in this article I recently found about how internet changes our reading behavior. It’s not exactly what you discuss here, but goes in the same direction: less concentration due to mobile / internet. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

    Also have a look at this fantastic TED Talk on YouTube. You’ll like the beginning 🙂 http://youtu.be/EzpX0TLKS9Q

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  6. I agree totally….it really annoys me when people I’m eating with or talking to suddenly turn to their phones.
    I was out for lunch on Saturday with a girlfriend and our phones didn’t make it out of our bags….we were too busy talking, too much to catch up on!
    However all around us I saw other diners ignoring their companions in favour of their phones. One couple had ordered a rather romantic looking bottle of fizz to share, but spent a good half hour ignoring each other and attached to the screens of their phones…..
    All very sad I feel!

    Like

    • It is very sad isn’t it, and I can’t see the situation improving unless we are able to be a little bit more open and honest with our friends, children, colleagues, family. It would be a great start if certain spaces and times were designated as distraction-free zones. Obviously if a call comes in and it needs to taken, then that’s a different matter. I fear for our inability to be present, and deal with silences in conversations.

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      • I think it’s a good idea doing what you did – let them know! I still think honesty is the way, together with those zones…Most people do want to be polite and liked – I think they will react positively to this. And if they don’t – I think they are lost anyway…

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    • It is indeed, but we are all in a position to actively do something about it. For me, it is all about time and place. Let’s just have some sacred spaces in which we don’t use our phones, laptops, or whatever mode of distraction we own!

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        • In my opinion, yes, that is absolutely a sacred space. It’s interesting as I am on holiday now with two of the friends I mentioned in the post, both of whom have read the blog and are now being far more conscious of when they use their phones!

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          • Yes I agree, and I get a bit twitchy if a friend starts texting while I am talking. If they say excuse me, I had better reply to this, I would of course be happy to give them a few moments of peace. Of not, one can feel as if they are being ignored. I am glad that your friends are more conscious of it. I am afraid that for much of the population, the phone has become a way of life, and a lifeline of communication, I fear it is like a runaway train. Most of the people who are on it, are already lost!

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  7. It certainly is a worrying trend. It has become such a norm that people no longer apologise for checking their phone whilst speaking to you. This lack of awareness, where will it end? It seems like ages since I have seen someone NOT use their phone whilst waiting at a bus stop or train station. Certainly addictive.

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    • Yes indeed. It’s fascinating reading people’s comments on this post as I have learnt so much about the science behind the use of smartphones.

      Like

    • Dear AAB I linked here through Leya’s reblog what a topical article which I can totally connect with – I think the world is going through a massive cultural shift which will almost certainly require us to rebalance and create new social guidelines – great blog

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      • Thanks so much for your comments. It seems like this post has resonated with a few people, so I think it’s great we are all having a conversation about it. Let’s just keep some times and spaces clear from distraction!

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  8. Great post! I read a scientific article about just how addictive these devices are – and the results are devastating. After reading it I had a discussion in some of my classes to verify my thoughts. There were students who had lost/dropped/broken their phones and had had to be without them for as long as a whole week. One of them said he experienced concentration difficulties (?) – studying and never knew where to put his hands. The hands problem was mentioned by the others too. Nervous tics and even more time at the computer…not unusual. The article compared this addiction to the one afflicting smokers. I asked those who were smokers too, and they agreed – it felt much the same.

    Just take a look at people in a train or a bus – what are they all doing sitting with their heads down…? Not talking to each other anyway…Before Christmas a collegue of mine told me that her grandchild (14 months old) borrowed her phone to play with and immediately started to swipe her fingers over the device. Then the little girl looked at my collegue’s face and shook her head: ” Not working”, she said. (In Swedish of course…). chills…Where are we going? Who’s going to take care of me when I’m old and sick?

    May I reblog?

    Like

    • Thanks for your insightful comment. I really appreciate the time people have taken to engage in this debate, and it seems like it is an issue that is affecting many people. I would be very keen to read the scientific article you mentioned, if you could share that.

      I don’t have children, but some of my friends do and I am astounded at the ease at which very young kids are able to use smartphones. I guess that makes sense though as in terms of design effectiveness.

      I think the use of social media and smartphones can be an incredible medium for communicating, linking up for example social activists across the world, reuniting friends, family and lovers. But I think the sad part is how, like I said in my post, it is hugely impacting on our ability to be present. This concerns me deeply. From a meta perpsective, this disconnection whlst sat alone together, to borrow from Turkle’s book, it serves the purpose of a further atomisation of people. We are much more easily controlled when we don’t get together and converse and debate.

      And yes, it would be an honour if you re-blogged this post.

      Like

      • I will try to find that article – which I read this autumn, but I guess it could take some time because I don’t know exactly where I read it. If I find it I will send it. Keep up the good work!

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  9. Woo hoo! Ok I am typing this on my iphone, sitting next to my better half of 29 years, also typing on his iphone, sitting in an airport with everyone around me typing on their smart phones! We will have to send children of the future to Emily Post style schools to teach them how to talk to each other. Heck, a lot of us might have to sign up.

    Like

  10. Reblogged this on Kev Ollier and commented:
    Having wrote the folowing on facebook earlier –
    Last year I got rid of my smartphone and just got one that calls and
    texts and it also takes low pixel pics. Since last November, and even though I own a 24/7 security business, I decided to switch my mobile off and only briefly turn it on a couple of times a day to check if there is anything that ‘urgent’. I even leave it at home when I go out – *sometimes* – but more and more often.
    And wow, there isn’t a device you can buy that gives one so much more freedom and peace than not carrying a phone around with you and especially a smartphone. We have become slaves to them and our children mentally and possibly irreversibly attached to them. They are the antithesis of many traditions and the ultimate distraction – distraction from living in the moment. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, go switch it off, proper off that is, and leave it in a cupboard for just 24 hours and then gauge your reactions and marvel at the freedom. Good tip – have a book close by. The book is the analogical nicorette.
    And as if to illustrate my point – somebody made a film..
    http://www.artthesystem.com/2013/12/after-i-saw-this-i-put-down-my-phone.html
    I thought it a good reblog

    Like

    • I have been travelling in the Americas for the last year and a bit and so haven’t had a phone for more than a month or two. It has felt extremely liberating, but, as my friend and I were just discussing, this isn’t most people’s reality. I also have friends who have broken out into a sweat when their device has been lost/damaged/stolen, but I wonder if that is as it is linked to their roles as being a responsible parent, friend, business-owner too!

      As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I don’t have children, and I can only see from my friends that do, the tension between understanding we live in a rapidly so-called modernising world, in which technology and the use of is central to innovation, certain businesses and whatever the hegemonic defnition of progress is. So, it’s about striking a balance, and forbidding the next generations to be so absorbed on their phone that they forget how to speak to the person next to them. Not an easy task!

      Like

  11. Your friend Kate Bee just put this, your post, as a reply on a post I coincidentally put on facebook earlier which was –
    Last year I got rid of my smartphone and just got one that calls and texts and it also takes low pixel pics. Since last November, and even though I own a 24/7 security business, I decided to switch my mobile off and only briefly turn it on a couple of times a day to check if there is anything that ‘urgent’. I even leave it at home when I go out – *sometimes* – but more and more often.
    And wow, there isn’t a device you can buy that gives one so much more freedom and peace than not carrying a phone around with you and especially a smartphone. We have become slaves to them and our children mentally and possibly irreversibly attached to them. They are the antithesis of many traditions and the ultimate distraction – distraction from living in the moment. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, go switch it off, proper off that is, and leave it in a cupboard for just 24 hours and then gauge your reactions and marvel at the freedom. Good tip – have a book close by. The book is the analogical nicorette.
    And as if to illustrate my point – somebody made a film..
    http://www.artthesystem.com/2013/12/after-i-saw-this-i-put-down-my-phone.html

    Great post btw. I wonder if there is anti-smartphone app?
    Kev

    Like

  12. Yep it’s a chronic addiction the world is falling to it would appear. I feel the addiction is part emotional and part physiological. Emotional – it serves humans in helping them deal with their fear of intimacy and feeling better about themselves. People ‘hide’ behind their phones. Physiological – Mobile phones emit an electro magnetic frequency. This EMF affects our body’s own magnetic frequency whereby the body reacts and produces alot of cortisol and adrenaline. As a result our body’s are in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode when we use mb phones without most realising it. We become addicted to the adrenaline. It helps us feel ‘alive’ give us a sense of importance and urgency to situations….The physiological effects are hence very linked to the emotional. And before I finish my speel….Mobile Phones are extremely bad for your brain health end-of-story. Don’t hold them up to your ear drum nor your child’s. All the Scandi countries who give a shit about health – all their governments have been in the know for donkies years about mb phones and educate their citizens openly on how to use them safely. The best devise to use in your ear when taking mb phone calls are ear phones/wires which have air pumped in them called ‘Air Tube’. Can widely find them on amazon. Normal ear phones still allow a lot of the EMF radiation to enter your ear.

    Like

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