Socializing and Smartphones
by Elliot Mandel | Cornell University
As far as I can tell the Rapture didn’t occur on May 21st. I look around and see people going about their daily lives without having to avoid awkward piles of clothes in the street.
So why is it when I’m engaged in a conversation with someone, they just disappear without any warning? Well, there is warning, but not the biblical “Thou Shalt Be Judged!” type of warning. It’s more of a little beep, a little ring, a tiny little voice going “You have a message! Read me! Read me! READ ME.” And there goes the conversation.
With the advent of smartphones, our social interactions have actually changed. We now have groups of people with iPhones or Androids or some such doohickey that gives them mobile access to the internet. No longer constrained to desktops or laptops, emails and apps are integrating themselves into conversations around the world. I’m sure that at some point, some point probably recently, you’ve experienced the same phenomenon. You’re hanging out with a group of your friends, shooting the proverbial “shit” and generally just having a raucous good time. A natural lull in conversation occurs. Now back in the olden days, when a lull would happen, friends would just enjoy the company of others and within minutes stumble upon the next topic of conversation.
But these days? A lull in conversation is a signal to smartphone users that they can finally get a break from those strange humoid figures with the flapping lips and bared gums. The Call of the Internet is too strong. No one can repel connectivity of that magnitude!
I should know- I have an iPhone. Before I received this manna from heaven of a phone, I was using a flip phone. No internet, no nothing. And it annoyed me to no end, trying to have conversations with smartphone users. At any one time they would be reading emails or checking scores or some such nonsense. There was always the feeling of slight disconnectedness from a friend sitting less than four feet away.
Now that I have a smartphone, I can see the other side of the issue. Being part of the “smartphone crowd” in my group I see the divisive tendencies that occur from internet connected phones. The “Haves” can take out their phones whenever they want. But the “Have nots”? They’re left staring at their empty hands, devoid of internet and information packets. Unable to access the world wide web, those poor souls.
So what does this mean for social conversation then? The question will soon become how to deal with the influx of technology into the social sphere. How can friends communicate with each other in the same room without letting their smartphones rule their lives? Or should we welcome our new robotic overlords with gusto?
I am by no means a Luddite. I love technology. But at the same time, you have to take a look at the direction that socializing with technology is headed. Sometimes it’s just easier to play Angry Birds than talk to your friend, again, for the 10th time, about the lack of Steampunk girls at school. Damn it Peter, there just isn’t a corset store in Ithaca.
At some point we will have to learn how to integrate technology into our social interactions in a way that is beneficial to everyone. More and more information will flood our conversations in daily life- we need to figure out how to deal with that.Elliot is a NGJ Voices Contributor who is majoring in English and Economics in the School of Arts & Sciences at Cornell University. He is from Millburn, New Jersey. Aside from occasionally writing for the Cornell Daily Sun, Elliot is also the Editor-in-Chief for the on-campus humor magazine, the Cornell Lunatic.