An older woman and her middle-aged son were at a public restaurant for Thanksgiving. He spent the whole of the dinner flipping through his phone, without uttering a word. She did her best to maintain her dignity while looking past him and trying to pretend that this is what life is like. This tragic scene lasted until they paid the bill and left.
The scene was relayed to me by a senior in college who explains how her generation is figuring out the right and wrong ways to use new technology, correcting for the errors of their parents, who somehow allowed their lives to be drained by the newness of it all.
Zak Tebbal drew the perfect cartoon for how our relationship to our smartphones has changed over the last 10 years.
No one planned it. It just seemed to happen. The gadget scratched an itch. We have to know everything, to be in touch with everyone, to be everywhere at once. It’s an everything box, miraculous in its own way. Why are so many people creeped out these days that we seem to have turned over the whole of our lives to our smartphones?
It began with Facebook’s brilliant notification system. Your friends are contacting you, liking you, appreciating you, and surely you need to know that! Every application caught on. More buzzes, dings, alerts, reasons to stare and scroll. During this time, your device holds your primary attention, and interrupts anything else that is happening.
Hours and hours per day, adding up to a day or two in a week, a week in a month, and, ultimately, years and years of our lives, staring senselessly at things that matter maybe a little but not that much.
And at what cost? Disciplined reading, social engagement with those around us, our attention span, serious thought, and even our sleep. No one signed up for our lives to be put into total upheaval one step at a time, forsaking all human connection and conversation, and eschewing serious mental and emotional development, in favor of digital trivia 24/7.