No Bugles

Technology! I Like It

If you’re reading this, so do you. With Facebook I’m reaching people on the other side of the globe. Twenty five years that would have been unbelievable. You can get on Facebook with a smart phone from anywhere in the world. You can do it on your iPad or laptop. It’s connected us. We know about people we’ll never meet in person. We connect like never before.
I do like my smart phone and could not live without it. I have an iPad and laptop that I conduct my worldly business from. My office is everywhere. Just ten years ago, without a landline, you were not connected.
Yet, when I walk down the street or inside a mall, what do I see. Lines of people sitting, smart phones in hand, thumbs scrolling, faces lit up by the screen. Sometimes almost every person in a line of twenty or thirty people are transfixed by their smartphones.
Once, I was curious and eavesdropped over some people’s shoulders at what they were doing on their smartphones. Some were playing games - and not just guys but grown up women. Others were emailing, texting or reading articles. Some seemed to be just aimlessly scrolling up and down seemingly hypnotized. Maybe thinking if they scroll enough something interesting will pop up. Who knows. Maybe it does.
The great global connector, thanks to the internet and wifi, was actually isolating people in places that are surrounded and packed with other people. Couples sitting there on separate smart phones absorbed - maybe she was texting her other boyfriend and he was texting his mistress. You never know. They would never know either. They can sit side by side and share sweet nothings with other people at the other end, unaware of the dalliance taking place in each of their secret little worlds.
You can see families in restaurants all sitting there on their smart phones. Each self-absorbed on their phones texting or whatever with someone else probably sitting with their family in some other restaurant. The traditional family meal was now a place to collectively connect to others. There is no speaking. No conversation. No sign of connection between parents and children. Something seemed strange and wrong about this. And it’s not isolated. Wherever you go you’ll see people staring into their smartphones. It’s world-wide.
Some restaurants ban smart phones. Some schools are doing the same. I say good. I hope its a trend. I say it’s time to put the phone down and start communicating with the people around you. Real deep connecting with your family and friends.
I’ve seen people at sports venues on their smart phones while their kids are playing. The parents are not watching and the kids know it. One parent was wisened up. She told me her child complained that she wasn’t paying attention to the game. Kids notice. They glance up at their parents and see them on their smart phones. Kids want their parents to watch them and they know when they’re not. Kids are proud of to perform in front of their parents. And when the parents are caught once, twice not paying attention they are deeply disappointed. It’s like the parents have better things to do. It’s not helping your parent-child relationship. You can’t simply be present at your child’s event, you have to really be there. Participating in your child’s excitement. Paying attention is a conscious effort. You can’t multi-task presence. Being there in mind as well as body. That’s what your child wants.
You can see playgrounds full of mothers on their smart phones while their kids play. How easy for the child to disappear. It happens. It’s so easy. What a horrible thought, just because you had better things to do browsing your smart phone. Even a two year old knows you’re “there” or not.
We’ve lost the human connection because of smart phones. They possess us and we are powerless to resist. I know because I fall victim to this too. It’s easy to fall prey to the lure of the smart phone. I consciously do not have it out when I am with others.
I have gotten adamant enough that if a friend starts diddling with his or her smart phone while we are walking together or at a restaurant, I leave. Usually they’re shocked and put their phone away. By then I’m upset at insult of being usurped by the smart phone I’m not much company thereafter. But they got the message. Maybe more of us should do that. Make no exceptions. It’s me or your phone. Choose and forever hold your peace.
I think people do this, ignore their friends while they play on their phones, because it’s become acceptable. We’ve all become patient by-standers to our family and friends. Second-rate company. What would Miss Manners say, I wonder. What would her rule be about using smart phones while in the company of other people.
There is a lot to be said of the sheer power of smart phones. Sitting by yourself on a train or bus you can catch up on emails and other stuff. People used to read books or newspapers by themselves while travelling or waiting somewhere. That’s entertaining and knowledge enhancing and helps bide the time. Staring out a window as you whiz by the world that’s just a blur isn’t exactly mind stimulating. So reading or entertaining yourself on the smart phone can be productive and fun. No question.
It’s in the company of other humans that this becomes a problem. We’re becoming unaware of the world around us as we instantly get absorbed by whatever we watch on our phones. We don’t people watch. We don’t day dream. Let our minds wander. Plan. Think. Imagine. Remember.
Our minds need that down time when we have a spare moment in a mall or a bus or train or airport terminal. Or a park bench. Why bother being in public if all you do is play with your smart phone. You miss the beauty of people and trees and swans in the pond and just life all around us.
I like technology. But I’ve decided to rein it in. I will control it - not it me. I promised myself that when I have people around me that becomes my focus. Business is business so my phone gets a good work out through the week as needed. But I use it when I need it, not when it beckons me with a beep or a ring. Not every message or notification needs immediate attention. Smart phones make us more productive and provide entertainment and company when we’re alone. So it’s not evil. Just something you need to understand. Who’s the boss, it or you? I keep asking myself that all the time.

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