A new obsession has taken hold of people. The smart phone.
I was on a subway in Korea a while back and I looked up from the book I was reading. Twenty-five people were in the carriage and twenty-two of them were using their phones. One the three that wasn’t using their phone, was asleep. Another was an elderly man who just sat idly. Not watching, not doing, just waiting. For a silly moment, I felt a connection with him. I was the only one reading a real paper book. Between us, we were the only two not entertaining ourselves digitally.
Korea is a country that is obsessed with technology, but for me, this was too far.
Straight up, I hate smart phones. I cannot stand it when people are obsessed with theim. When you are trying to hold a genuine human conversation with a person and they are fiddling on a little touch screen device, it makes me want to break it. You, a real person are attempting to communicate with somebody while they are playing games with someone else on the other side of the world. It’s undeniable that smart phones are incredibly useful. If you want to check the weather in Azerbaijan as you lie on the beach in Zanzibar, you can do this. If you need to check what your friends around the world ate for breakfast, Facebook and Twitter are only a click away. In fact, if anything at all happens that may even remotely concern you, you will be notified immediately. You will always be within reach of people all around the world. You are a truly global citizen.
You cannot escape.
An interesting observation I have recently noted, is the number of people who go into a social environment and instead of interacting with others around them, they interact with people who are somewhere else. They seem to live their life more in the virtual world than the real world. Worse still, others travel to new and exciting places and then immediately open their electronic devices as if it is a race to post the image on social media for the whole world to see. It seems that many of us have become so overwhelmed by the sensory overload that these devices provide, we cannot help but keep going back to them.
I do not have a problem with sharing adventures from around the world. I do this often. However, it does not need to be done immediately upon arriving at a new location.
I was on a mountain in France a couple of years ago and as we crested this beautiful peak that was devoid of people, happiness overwhelmed me. “Wait,” my companion said. He whipped out his iPhone and shared an image to Facebook. Two minutes later as I wondered through the snow appreciating the place I was in, he was occupied replying to Facebook comments. I felt cheated. He took our special place and gave it away to the world before we had even had time to enjoy it.
Using smart phones in order to verify facts that are normally uncheckable is a practical application of the device. When however, it is used to solve every disagreement, it somewhat detracts from the fluidity of conversation. So I’d rather if you didn’t. Even if I misquote the population of Mongolia or can’t remember the name of the currency in Mali, it doesn’t matter. These details, in the grand scale of things are irrelevant. We do not have to always be proven correct. A common claim I have heard about smart phones, is that the games are educational. For example the word based games help to expand your vocabulary. Trying every high-scoring combination of letters until you get the word BHAVF is not actually increasing your intelligence. You may feel intelligent as you score 437 points, but, needless to say, you probably don’t know what it means.
As a child, I spent many years obsessed with different games to know this. As many times as I took over the world with the Mongols or won the Champions League with Hull City, I wasn’t actually achieving anything. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I had a smart phone now. Would I fall back into the same cycle as others? The main problem with smart phones is that they take you out of the real world. Everything becomes instant and we no longer have the gratification that is achieved by waiting for something. Instead of being happy when something arrives quickly, we expect it. The only feeling evoked is the feeling of anger when something isn’t instant. “I sent that email thirty minutes ago, why hasn’t it arrived?” We take ourselves out of the real world and we forget about living real life. We no longer write letters and we go to places purely for the purpose of flaunting them to others. Everything is on demand and we want it now.
I carry a £9.99 phone. It makes emergency calls and it can both send and receive SMS messages to ensure my family know that I am alive. It does everything that I need. I can travel slowly and live my life without having to be connected at all times of day. It helps me remember that I am a real person. I’m not proud that I have a simple phone. Instead, I’m relieved that I don’t have a smart phone. I can survive without it.
What I feel more than anything else when I see people obsessed with smart phones, is sadness. Why are we leaving the real world for one with flashy buttons? Next time we have a conversation, please stop playing with your smart phone and talk to me. At 25 years old, I’m too old for smart phones and too young to stop living life in the real world.