Once upon a time, friends would sit in coffee shops together, exchanging meaningful glances across the table. With each sentence spoken by one person, the other would react with an appropriate facial expression, or sometimes even a verbal response. Across the street, children played outside and obediently followed their mothers around while they ran errands. People of all ages walked through the streets, taking in the beauty and familiarity of their surroundings, while others chose to daydream. Once upon a time, there was no zombie apocalypse. But that all changed soon enough. The plague was manufactured by humans, only it wasn’t a deadly virus (although it was just as easy to obtain). It was a smart phone.
Before the criticism starts, let me lay down some disclaimers. I have no problem with people owning technology. I have no problem with beneficial advancements in technology. But I do have a problem with technology owning people. I have a problem with technology advancing upon us, until it towers over us like an indestructible Frankenstein’s monster.
Furthermore, I’m not trying to play the role of holy martyr here; I’m certainly not perfect. I have an iPhone, on which I often text, check my emails for school, and play Words With Friends. I use my laptop for everything school requires me to do, as well as for a great deal of my leisure activities. And on a couple of occasions, I accidentally found myself enjoying the convenience of someone’s iPad mini. Have I gone overboard with the duration of my use of these items like many others? Certainly. But the difference between those who share my beliefs and those whom we have issues with is simple: They don’t notice. They don’t care. When I spend an entire class period on my phone or a few hours on my laptop, I start to feel lethargic and guilty, which prompts me to shut everything down and go do something else. If I find myself needlessly (read: constantly) checking my phone, I notice, and correct the behavior. Because the word “needless” means exactly what it sounds like – there is no need for it. Think about it. Do you really need to be on your phone while walking down the street, while holding a door open, while waiting for class, or during dinner? Does anyone need to? The answer, sadly enough, is that they kind of do.
As unnecessary as it is to be on one’s phone constantly, many people have developed full-blown addictions to technology. This addiction, in turn, causes people to mistake desire for need. Now, pulling out one’s phone has become as subconscious as scratching an itch, or blinking when your eyes feel dry. Using technology as a solution to our problems has become equally automatic. Why bother teaching your toddler to have an attention span when you could stick an iPad in their hands? Why wait patiently for your friend to meet up with you when you could mindlessly browse Facebook so you don’t look lonely? What’s more is that the addiction is so common that those who avoid it have become outsiders. I find it incredibly rude when my friends whip out their phones during a conversation or a meal, yet I cannot find the words to tell them to stop. What reason would I give? “I value eye contact and listening in a conversation”? No one cares about that anymore. In another example, I noticed that my boyfriend was glued to his Samsung Galaxy S3 while we were together (literally, even when he wasn’t using the phone it was still in his hand). He would play Shoot Bubble, read about World of Warcraft, and diligently answer texts from his friends. But whenever I left and he would play video games, any text I sent him remained unanswered for an hour or more. I found it odd that the only time he wasn’t paying attention to his phone was when his attention was focused on yet another piece of technology. Of course when I brought it up, I was chastised for wanting eye contact in addition to being listened to (I’m so high maintenance, I know), and told to “get with the times”. Charming.
The main argument for the usefulness of technology is that it is, well, useful. And I don’t doubt that. Advancements in space travel, medical research, and communication are amazing examples of the great things humans are capable of. I fully support innovation and discovery, because technology certainly has done wonderful things for our world. But I do not equate a scientist inventing a new piece of surgical equipment to an 18-year-old girl ignoring her friends while posting pictures of her lunch on Instagram. As I touched on before with the definition of “needless”, I fully support the necessary, but not much else.