I see it every single day. On my morning walk to work, in restaurants, at the gym, in nightclubs, in traffic and in grocery stores. Pretty much everywhere I go heads are bowed down staring at bright screens on little devices that supposedly connect you with the world. I think we are moving into an era of disconnection.
You might be thinking that I am I using the term we when this does not apply to you at all. Before you make that conclusion ask yourself a few of these questions, and be honest. How many times an hour do you check your phone? Do you get anxiety or feel lost if you don’t have your phone on you? Are you checking your phone when you are at a restaurant sharing a meal with someone? Do you have to check your phone before bed and immediately upon waking? I am going to guess that you answered yes to at least one of these questions. And I am going to go further and say that you are re assuring yourself that the only reason you did is because you have your work email on your phone and you need to check it frequently.
Smartphones are parasites to a rich social life. I say that because I believe in being present in the moment. Think about it. I mean really think. I used to have a desktop computer, a home phone, an alarm clock, a calendar on my wall, a watch on my wrist that was more than an accessory, read the newspaper to check the weather forecast, play board games, use a map and not a GPS app, call my friends to see how they are doing and not check their social network sites to “keep up” with their lives. Pre Blackberry I lived in New York the summer of 2007 to complete an Architecture program at Parsons the New School for Design, and I used to walk the streets of New York and feel its pulse. I would literally listen to every sound, absorb every impression of the fast paced concrete jungle and I would feel a burst of motivation every morning. Post Blackberry is a different story. I walked with my companion in my hand and couldn’t seem to put him down. But it is time to stop. We have to stop.
Seriously, we really have to stop. I don’t mean go cold turkey, because cell phones are a necessity for most of us. But we have to look up. There are many legit arguments for why we should look up, I see people on the streets of NY almost daily crash into each other or poles or other stationary objects because their head is bowed down and they are not paying attention to their surroundings.
But I think the fact that we are not paying attention to our surroundings is more concerning then the fact that we are walking zombies in danger of hurting ourselves. I think we are missing out on what is important and loosing opportunities to really connect. Not via text, BBM, Whatsapp, Twitter or FB. I mean really connecting with those around you. Blackberry’s are called Crackberry’s for a reason. People need their fix, and they need it often. It is the most popular smartphone in the US, followed by the Iphone.
A phone is not just a phone today, they are super computers. My mother got an Iphone 6 months ago, and her texts are like taken out of damnyouautocorrect.com. It’s actually quite entertaining. Her company used to use HTC, and she had no clue how to work that phone either. And now she is adapting to the Iphone, and downloading Angry Birds although she has no idea how to play it. By Christmas 2011 one out of two Americans will have a Smartphone.
My prediction is that in less than a decade we will have rehabilitation centers for phone addicts. People will check in to learn how to function with out their phones, how to turn it off when they go on vacation, how to socially interact with others face to face. Unless we make some changes now…