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.