It’s amazing how far society has come in the span of a century. Thanks to the Wright Brothers, we have mechanical, winged beasts that can take us across the world in a fraction of the time it would have taken a boat. Thanks to Marconi, we can now listen to overproduced drivel on our commute to work, made by people who have no business being on the radio. Because of Graham Bell, we have telephones. And since the invention of each of these devices, their creators’ successors have updated them to the point that each and every one of them has become an integral part of society. But if Bell knew that the telephone would become a portable laptop that deviated from his original vision of the device, would he have still invented it all those years ago?
Nowadays, all of these allegedly smart devices have become more of a hassle than they’re worth. When cellular devices first became commonplace a decade ago, they were primitive in comparison to what they’ve become today. Clunky, short-lived batteries, no touch screens, exciting games like Snake–those were the essence of cellphones from the early 2000s. There wasn’t “an app for that”, and cellphones were mainly used for instantaneous communication–as opposed to whenever you could get home and check message on your answering machine. They were convenient to have, but they were still a commodity. Little kids didn’t have them. Cellphones were for business professionals or family members on vacation who needed to stay in touch with each other. If you became separated from your family at Disney World, you could call each other at the end of the day, meet up and go grab some ice cream before returning to the hotel. Imagine how effectively Scooby and the gang would have put cellphones to good use.
But now these devices are used for almost everything but phone calls. In fact, it seems strange for someone to call a friend in the conventional manner–as opposed to using text messages, FaceTime, SnapChat, Facebook or dozens of other avenues. Calling someone is considered “going the extra mile” because we’ve become so accustomed to reading instead of hearing our words. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other “social” networks that facilitate this practice, this might be the standard methodology for a long time.
Working at a restaurant, one especially notices how attached to phones people have become. Just last week, I watched an entire table interact with each other via cellphone. They didn’t really talk to each other, they just sat around the table SnapChatting and texting one another until the food came. At that point, their mouths were too stuffed with food to converse. On another occasion, I watched a family come in, sit down, and–within ten seconds–the kids asked the parents for their phones. They spent the duration of the meal playing Angry Birds and ignoring their parents. There are also those people who fervently check their phones for a new text message or Facebook notification, which is them saying “No, you’re important to me, just not that important.” It’s not just restaurants–people in hospitals, schools and brothels use their cellphone on a regular basis.
When people sit down together in groups, it’s not uncommon for at least one person to be engaged with a portable device, plugged into his or her own world while not-really-but-kind-of spending time with the others. It’s not really questioned anymore. In fact, it’s generally accepted as a sign of the times that when four people sit down somewhere in public, at least two of them will be otherwise occupied. Ten years ago, most considered reading a book while waiting at the table to be commonplace. Nowadays, surfing your Facebook newsfeed while at a restaurant is totally normal.
Perhaps the most infuriating feature of the smart phone craze experienced at restaurants is “Insta-mania”. Too many people with apps like Instagram spend more time than they should (and they should take an average of–oh, I don’t know–zero seconds) taking pictures of food for absolutely no reason. I almost pity anyone skimming their Instagram feed during Ramadan or Yom Kippur. Why would anyone need to take pictures of their food–let alone share them with others who, truth be told, probably don’t care or are too busy taking their own pictures to notice? At one point a man spent five minutes taking a picture of his hamburger and, two minutes later, complained that it was too cold. Did Picasso sit down and paint his chicken nuggets before biting into them? Nope. What did people do before the advent of Instagram? Eat their food? Nope, that can’t be right. That sounds too ridiculous. I don’t know who started the Instagram craze of taking pictures of your food, but I do hope that Liam Neeson finds him and–well, you know how the rest of that story goes.
People today extensively rely on their cellphones and similar technologies because many are eager to share every one of their thoughts or feelings with others. I’ve seen too many people go to concerts and experience the event via smart phones, as if re-watching a poorly recorded video on a 4-inch screen could compare to watching the live concert. This “social” character of modern technology has made people antisocial outside of the screens they gaze at. With the like of Facebook and Twitter, all of these people sacrificing real-world social interaction to update their online social networks or interact with others miss out in a way that wasn’t possible a decade ago. The availability of these smart phones is leading people to un-smart decisions. Car accidents probably weren’t as prevalent on the road 20 years ago as they are now. People weren’t walking into fountains because they were too busy texting. (That’s a thing. If you don’t believe me, check YouTube.)
Short story long, Ray Bradbury and George Orwell may have been onto something with their dystopian novels, in which technological advances commandeer peoples’ lives and make it easier for others to control them. Truth be told, we’ve become so immersed in all of these technologies that, in due time, we might forget how to live without them.
Are cell phones taking over our lives? Are you even paying attention? Let us know in the.. hang on…just gotta check this tweet…haha classic!