This nugget of thought that I’m currently pondering is in no way an excuse to rant or expose my latent luddite tendencies. It is though a heartfelt desire to reach out to like minded people and see if we can create a critical mass.
Yes the smartphone revolution has been phenomenal, opening up a world of possibilities to instantly tap into a never ending source of online information. However this box of tricks comes at a cost and the price may be too high. My area of concern is not the monetary value but the effect on human interaction and communication.
It’s become an obsession - texting and social networks are preferred to face to face contact or calling. The average teenager receives around 88 text messages per day - Wow! This sounds like the activity of a loner isolated in their online world. However the reality is that groups of friends, restaurant diners, commuters and couples all share a common tendency to habitually drop their gaze and stab their fingers at a virtual keyboard whilst ignoring the world around them. More than just a harmless distraction, smartphones have become a prop to hide behind and a barrier to communication. In a recent article in the Independent Simon Schama, the well know TV historian, referred to them as the ‘Look-Down Generation’.
“Go and travel on the tube and you’ll see people are losing the sense of actually eyeballing each other. It is something which is absolutely elemental, it’s our first human act.”
London-based street photographer Babycakes Romero produced a series of pictures that sadly document how our lives are intrinsically linked to these potent devices. Babycakes explains:
“It was something I kept seeing over and over again as well as experiencing first hand. It originally caught my eye as there was a certain symmetry to these people locked simultaneously yet separately in the same action and it appealed on a visual level, but as I continued I noticed an inherent sadness to the proceedings. I saw that smartphones were becoming a barrier to communication in person. I saw how people used it as a social prop, to hide their awkwardness, to fill the silence but as I continued to observe and document this modern phenomena I felt that the devices were actually causing the awkwardness and the silence. They basically allow people to withdraw rather than engage.”
Be in the Moment
Musician Jack White is one artist who is vehemently opposed to smartphone use at his shows. Phones are forbidden and anyone spotted brandishing one during the show would be immediately escorted out. White explained that he wanted everyone to be in the moment with him and not watching the show with one foot in the building and the other in the future. He doesn’t want you to record his shows. He wants you to freeze that moment in your heart. Well said Jack!
So what can we do about it. Lets start by being more disciplined with ourselves. No we don’t need to check Facebook every 5 minutes to see if someone else has massaged our ego with a click of the Like button. Next spread the message amongst your friends - “hey get your nose out of your screen, we’re trying to have a good time here!”. Making the act anti-social could start turning the tide and you never know things could start looking up for the ‘Look-Down Generation”.
It is like the finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory