By Emily Rosen
Surely, you know it’s a disease. Of what proportions is unknown, as of yet. Will it show up in the genes of the next generation – and to what extent? Will human fingers mutate? This is also unknown. Some addictions, we know, pass down through heredity. So many words, so many articles, columns, books, discussions have been written on the societal “effect” of the smartphone. When do you not use it?
For me, the impact clicked when looking at the iconic over-the-top cartoon showing a car with “Just Married” emblazoned all over it. The bride, still dressed in her flowing gown, the groom in his groomsman’s attire, are leaning on the front car bumper as close to each other as strawberries and whipped cream with nary a sign of recognition of each other. Both are busy with their eyes lowered as they text (to each other?)
As with most impactful technological innovations, there is the good and the bad. It is wonderful to be able to communicate at an airport, to have the GPS lady lead you through mazes of unfamiliar miles to your destination, to be able to give a heads-up text to your significant other who is in an important meeting that can’t be interrupted, reporting that you won’t be there on time because of a flat tire. And it is great to get answers to the endless answers to questions about pure trivia from Google, like who played the lead in a 1972 movie, and to receive the myriad “alerts,” and, well, you know I could fill pages with this.
But the dislocated ability to confront people eye to eye says something important about relationships, as does the misguided need to respond to every signal. When the phone rings, why must it be answered immediately if it’s your sister and you are lunching with a friend or at a dinner party table? Yes; it’s good for emergencies, but not every “Hello. How are you doing?” is an emergency. And then, when you whip out pictures of your kids or grandkids or greats — about whom most of your surrounding companions care not a whit – is that an act of cluelessness or narcissism? The sheer discourtesy of being inattentive to your immediate surroundings speaks to misplaced priorities.
Personally, I am offended when people place their phones in plain sight in social situations – unless they declare some kind of expectation of an emergency. Perhaps, it’s my age, but it is not hard to remember a time when folks called on land phones and left messages when you weren’t home. They weren’t expecting an instantly gratifying response.
Many colleges have done serious research on the effects of slavishness to smartphones in regard to relationships. I’ve checked out several and learned of a predisposition towards feelings of rejection on the part of romantic partners when phones are used excessively. Google “smart phones and relationships.” You’ll be amazed at the abundance of scholarly interest in this.
Yes, yes, times are a-changing… but fast.