The rise of the smartphone has been a major boon for nearly everyone who has one in the palm of their hand. It sends and receives text messages all over the world, stores your music catalog, takes photos, gives you directions when you get lost, looks up that author whose name you can’t remember and I guess makes phone calls, too. Unfortunately, it also causes many of us to pay less attention to our real-world surroundings and the human beings in them.
Not long ago I was eating dinner with friends I don’t see often and an hour into the meal we stopped talking to check our phones. Heads bowed, we tapped, scrolled and pinched our screens.
At no point did we decide to take a break from talking to each other and retreat to our phones; it just happened. None of us were on-call in any way: There were no children to check on and no emergencies to address.
When we’d all snapped out of our phone trances, we acknowledged that we’d been staring at our phones and laughed about it nervously. We knew there was something wrong about zoning out on our phones instead of talking to each other, yet we were each guilty of it.
Unlike the deep and lasting reward of a good conversation over dinner with friends, our smartphones offer us quick bursts of gratification with their notifications that someone has been thinking of us or that we’ve been retweeted. We never know when an email with good news may come, which makes it tempting to check at any available moment, even if that moment isn’t actually available.
This technology is too new for us to have worked out all of the kinks and decided upon the rules, so errors in judgment are constantly made. I find myself worrying that not answering a text message immediately will make the sender think I am a bad friend, so I respond to the text while half listening to something my boyfriend is telling me.
It’s undeniably wonderful that a pocket-sized computer can order pizza and allow its user to video chat like in a James Bond film, but in the end a smartphone is really just a brilliant combination of inanimate parts. So lately, when I’m interacting with a human being, I try my hardest to keep my phone out of my hands. It’s difficult, as many things worth doing tend to be, but it’s not impossible.
And because I’m not allowing myself to check out in the middle of a conversation, I’m more aware of how incredibly rude it is when others do it. Before, I didn’t ask for anyone’s undivided attention because I didn’t want anyone to ask that of me. Now, without fear of being a hypocrite and accepting the risk of sounding like a nag, I have begun to boldly request the same attention I give.
Of course, it’s unrealistic for many people to conceive going entirely without a smartphone, distracting as they may be, and I wouldn’t want to give up mine. They’re too convenient, too useful in too many ways. Still, if you find yourself compelled to interrupt real face-to-face interaction with people in order to check your phone and can’t remember the last time you used a line at the bank as an opportunity to just stare off into space, it may be a good idea to give your smartphone a rest and let your wireless human brain take over for awhile.
“m b v” as anything but a highly anticipated train ...