When I left the US to live in Mexico with my husband back in April of 2010 smart phones were just starting to become popular and the majority of people didn’t have them. When I moved back from Mexico in July of 2012 most of the people I knew had a smart phone. Smart phones are everywhere now. In an email at work someone commented “In this day who doesn’t have a smart phone?” Well, I’m one of those people. At first I didn’t get one when I moved back for financial reasons (I bought the cheapest pre-paid phone I could get.) I still haven’t purchased one. I have nothing against them, and I can see that they can really come in handy (especially if you’re traveling in unfamiliar areas and need to find your way, locate a gas station, etc.) I will probably get one at some point, but it’s not a priority.
People are always talking about how ‘connected’ they are to everything with a smart phone, which leads me to this:
Since coming back I feel a bit of culture shock – which is amazing since I wasn’t in Mexico THAT long. Everywhere I turn people are glued to the screens of their phones. I see people in the middle of a conversation with someone in front of them stop talking/listening because their phone rings with a call or text message. I see people driving, not even looking up at the road because they are glued to their phone. A person ‘consoling’ a friend and then ignoring them in favor of a message they just received. Have we all forgotten that a text message doesn’t disappear if we don’t read it right away? Do people not remember that they have voice mail on their phones and people can leave a message? (Oh, wait, people don’t leave messages anymore because they’d rather text a book than leave a 5 second message.) If you walked up to people in the middle of a conversation you’d wait to start talking until there was a break in the conversation, wouldn’t you? If you’re in the middle of an important conversation and someone walks up and interrupts you would ask them to wait a moment, wouldn’t you? Yet time and time again because a phone starts buzzing, people stop what they are doing to look at the message or answer the phone.
People are no longer fully engaged in any activity because they feel the need to answer the call/text message immediately. Of course there’s also facebook, twitter, etc. and you see people posting stuff about their vacation while on vacation because they have a smartphone and they can. Are those people fully engaged in their vacation? In my mind they aren’t because they’re so busy with their phone that they’re not looking around and talking to the people they’re vacationing with (although, they MIGHT be ‘talking’ with them via facebook or text messaging.) The last time I went to Mexico my phone stayed turned off the whole time I was there and I logged on to the internet a grand total of 3 times, to see if we had received any word from our lawyer, to upload some photos from a trip we’d taken, and to print my boarding passes for the return flight. Other than that, every minute of my vacation I was fully engaged with enjoying the company of my husband, seeing new things and enjoying time with family and friends.
Not everyone who has a smart phone is disconnected to the here-and-now. I have seen some people who do nothing more than silence their phone when they’re listening to a friend in need pouring out their feelings. I have been in cars with people who wait till they have pulled off the road/arrived at their destination before looking at their text messages. My dad has an iPhone but he’s not glued to it when he’s talking to people face-to-face. We were speaking about this phenomenon the other day and he said that one of his church members was in intensive care and he went to see how to help the family – they were sitting in the cafeteria at the hospital and, as he started talking to them, they kept answering text messages and phone calls, not all of which had anything to do with the seriously ill husband/father. It’s so very sad to see people are that disconnected just because they are main-lining a constant information feed via smart phone.
Please share your thoughts – are we too connected to the internet and smart phones that we’re missing real human connections?