Smartphones. What have we done to ourselves?

Hello Monday morning. This is a strange article for me, because it actually criticises the very thing I love and write about on a daily basis.

The other day I was in Pizza Hut. Classy huh? I spotted two people come in and they sat directly in my eye-line. They came in, sat down and started fiddling with their phones.


It’s something I’ve seen a lot recently because I’ve been in a lot of restaurants whilst on holiday. People use their phones whilst waiting for food, or whilst waiting for the waiter. It’s a scene you may have witnessed in many places, many times. However, as I’ve been out quite a bit it’s something that I’ve become more aware of recently. Even people who are out on a special date, in a posh restaurant, they’ll be using their phones quite heavily.

Sure, initially it’s looking at pictures and laughing at videos. Many people do this. It’s perfectly fine and many people use it as a conversation piece or it’ll enhance the proceedings somehow.

However, at Pizza Hut, and at a few other places, I noticed something happening. An escapism. A “zone out” moment. It was these two people who were the most noticeable example. They came in, sat down and both started playing with their phones. I’m not sure what handsets they were exactly, but they said nothing from the moment they entered, apart from a passing comment to the waitress.

I presumed they’d had an argument, but after choosing their food and the pizza arriving they both put down their phones and started chatting away.

However, it had been 30 minutes at least since they walked in, and not one word said between them. Not a smile, not a look, just a long stare at their phones.

Smartphones. What have we done to ourselves?

I was in Florida at the time, but I’ve seen the same thing happening back in the UK too. In Florida you’ll find Disney World, and there I witnessed many people walking around with back-packs. They had the essentials. Water, a mini-fan and … an iPad. To be honest I’m used to seeing iPads appearing in a great deal of places, but when you’re in 35 degree heat, a chunky iPad isn’t the easiest thing to carry around when you’re in your shorts. Many were using them to film and, because the park had free WiFi everywhere, I saw people browsing in the queues too.

I shouldn’t just single out iPads though. All manner of handsets were used in the queues. Part of me thinks that this is actually a good idea. It sucks up that “down time” as you wait the hour or more to get on a ride. However, I also saw the bad side.

Kids.

For parents in queues, they were occupied, browsing the web and checking email. The kids were bored though, and some parents weren’t interacting because they already had something to do, even if that “something” really wasn’t important at all.

Oh, and something else..

Facebook.

What got me about this was that, whilst watching Mickey and his friends performing a parade, people were immediately uploading shots to Facebook. I mean within seconds.

“There’s Mickey”

*Snap*

*Upload*

People were so keen to show others where they were that they’d add a message and ensure that the shot went online immediately. This confused me too. Never mind the rest of the parade. Never mind the children with wonder in their eyes, get that picture of Mickey Mouse on Facebook, because you want your friends to be jealous.

Perhaps I’m getting old. Perhaps I’ve just seen a bad snapshot of people. I know not everyone does this, but I’ll admit to doing it myself. I’ll admit to fiddling with my phone whilst waiting for my wife to come out of the shop. I should be talking to my son in the back seat, and I have to tell myself off for that. I have to try and change my behaviour.

Smartphones, iPads, tablets, even the odd Nintendo DS. They take us somewhere else. To a world of email, to a world where our friends show us their pictures or let us know how great their lives are. We read Twitter, we check the news, we text others and we browse the web. Sometimes though, we forget what’s important. We stop talking to the ones that matter the most.

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  • S21

    Just wait for Google Glass …

  • mark adams

    I’m glad its not just me that gets annoyed by that

  • Avendit

    I hope we will survive. Previously it was cameras people would live behind, now its phones and tablets.

    When on holiday in Canada a few years ago my wife and I went on an orca watching boat tour. The tall ships were in Victoria harbour at the time, and I took my camera out for a few photos of those as we went past. Then I put it away. But no one else did.

    Once the group found the orcas I think we were the only people on the boat to actually see them. Everyone else was too busy trying to frame them on their s*&tty point and shoot. zizzzz, zizzz, beep beep click – of a now blank bit of water, from all around us.

    It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.

  • Martin

    Have you read ‘Blind Faith’ by Ben Elton? It is coming boys and girls, it is coming.

    I hate Facebook, really hate it, I don’t want to share my life with world + dog, who really gives a sh*t what I am doing or where I am doing it, most of the time not even I care that much. I certainly don’t care what other people are doing…wooooo you are in a queue in Disney Land, really? Are you really that sad that you want me to validate your life because you have shared this with everyone? Tish and Piffle I say, tish and piffle.

  • Paul

    Yup. Conversation is dead. I can see this generation becoming hunchbacks. Everywhere you look there’s people walking with their head down looking at their phones, it’s very sad.

    I also hate Facebook and have never ever used Twitter, I share the same opinion as Martin in that I don’t share what I’m doing with everyone. I do, however, read what my friends post on facebook, and that makes me file like a stalker. Despite the fact they that told everyone what they’re doing via posting, they seem shocked/surprised/mortified when I mention in passing that “I knew what they did last summer”. Grrrrrr. do they think it’s a diary that no-one else can see, fffs.

  • AC

    I like this reflective post. :)

  • the_prof

    I’m totally with you there Leigh. I think what worries me most about all this is the effect it has on our ability to interact socially. I think the more ‘normal’ this behaviour becomes, the less able the average person will be to interact others. This probably sounds rather extreme, but it’s noticeable even now.

    The more advanced these devices become, the more integrated they become with our lives. Therefore, I think it’s all too easy to allow these things to become a barrier to allow us to manage social interaction in our own terms. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that the skills involved in interacting on a personal level are hard learned, and anything which gets in the way of this cannot be a positive development.