Print Edition: January 16, 2013
Have you ever been walking behind someone who’s texting, and had the urge to swat them in the back of the head? You aren’t alone. Head down, oblivious and having slowed down to a meander, they do make a tempting target.
Our addiction to our phones is becoming an issue.
The issue isn’t that texting—among other forms of instant messaging—has hurt students’ ability to write a decent essay. Most of us know the difference between sending a text and writing an essay on Homer’s The Odyssey. That line is pretty clear. The issue is that phones have become a crutch; if you’re feeling any sort of social discomfort, you pull out your phone and check your email, or send a text. We’re avoiding putting ourselves out there and instead putting up a wall of cool indifference. We’ve stopped rising to the occasion socially, stopped expanding our comfort zones and making connections.
In my first class of the semester I was surrounded by classmates who would be spending the next four months with me, yet no introductions were attempted. This was mostly because everyone was nonchalantly texting or Facebooking or tweeting on their phones. I opted to text my mother.
Yet it’s gone even farther than that. Without knowing it, we become addicted to answering the call of the ringtone. I was having a conversation with a fellow in the line at Tim Horton’s when I received a text. Immediately I pulled my phone from my pocket and began a half-conversation with a friend. I soon became annoyed with the person standing right in front of me – why did he keep talking? I was in the middle of something, couldn’t he see that?
It seems that texting has begun to take precedence over actual conversation. You wouldn’t start talking to someone while in the middle of a conversation with another person – even answering a phone while talking to someone is considered impolite. So why is it okay to answer texts?
And does texting impair people’s ability to communicate without their gadgets?
Some would argue that sending a text is an art. One must know when to include a smiling emoticon, or an exclamation mark, or leave it as simple text. Or how one should answer someone whose conversation is unwelcome: ignore them, answer in monosyllables, tell them you’re actually in the middle of something? It’s another social variable one must learn to navigate in order to maintain the pretence of fitting in. But a variable that needs to be able to coexist and not compete with other social occasions.
Our addiction to phones has become worse with the rising popularity of Twitter. According to Digital Marketing Ramblings, 200 million people are active on Twitter, which has a total of 500 million users. The appeal is clear – it’s a great way for journalists to report on stories instantly, for friends to keep updated and for public figures to gather a following. But for those who are giving updates on everything that’s happening to them, it seems almost ironic. Are they really living in reality? Or are they still thinking of their next pithy and oh-so-clever 140 character update?
My feelings are summed up by one phrase in Roman Polanski’s film, Carnage. Sometime before she drops her husband’s phone in a vase of water, Nancy (Kate Winslet) snarls at her husband, “The here and now, goddammit!”