This isn’t a new topic. Many others have gone over this ad nauseum, but as someone who has borne the brunt of the consequences for this brave new era in which we find ourselves, I feel it necessary to point out some of the drawbacks inherent in some of the new technology that we find ourselves living with today. We human beings are incredibly innovative and come up with some amazing inventions that drastically improve our lives, and we always seem to think that anything we create is going to be good and helpful. Unfortunately, we usually can’t guess the unanticipated consequences of the new things that we create and there is a massive shift in a negative direction.
The example for the purposes of this article is probably the single biggest change in the way our society works ever: the smartphone. For most of our existence, we relied on face to face communication to get things done. Placing ourselves in someone’s life required some physical effort in the form of either going to visit them in person, or by writing a letter and waiting for it to arrive. With the advent of faster methods of communication like telephone systems, things didn’t really change that much because we still had to put some traditional methods of effort into place to get that communication. It was still just basic communication.
Unlike the past where it wasn’t reasonable to be in constant communication every moment of the day, the smartphone has radically changed the way we view interacting with others. First and foremost, little or no effort is required to impose yourself on someone else because you can simply tap out a few words on your phone and then shoot it off into the void confident it will arrive. The person on the other end has little choice but to receive your message, regardless of if they want to or not.
It is this removal of a time and effort investment to communication that bothers me. The new normal is for people to be constantly talking to each other all day, every day. It used to be that you had to wait until you met up with someone before you could catch up on what was going on. Even husbands and wives had to wait until they got home from work to find out how their day went. Now, we get a play by play as it happens, constantly bombarded with the goings on of another person instead of being able to focus on what we’re doing in the moment, and then we wonder why there’s nothing to talk about when we’re finally together with someone. It’s all already been said.
When you have no reason to come together anymore, it creates a sense of isolation. There is no longer any reason to physically interact with anyone when you don’t have anything new to talk about. If you’ve spent the entire day experiencing what someone else is going through via your smartphone, once you’re finally in person there is no real interest in continuing a conversation. The natural instinct is to look for mental stimulation elsewhere, because you’re certainly not going to get it from the person you spent your day getting constant updates from.
The smartphone, while an incredible advancement in technology, is perhaps the biggest single factor in the increasing failure of modern relationships. Men, naturally somewhat isolationist by nature, have little patience for the incessant and constant desire for communication that women tend to obsess over. In the past, we had the buffer of space and time. Now, we have no choice but to be overrun by it. It creates a real sense of angst when we can’t even get away for a few hours without a text message sounding off on our phones along with the inevitable complaining when we don’t reply “fast enough”.
It creates an obligation to be “connected” every moment of the day, never having a moment that is truly for yourself. For someone like me who values my alone time, this is a huge problem that causes significant issues in my relationships. It isn’t that I want to be alone, but I can’t be tethered to my phone all the time, and people just don’t seem to understand that concept anymore. I yearn for the days before smartphones when there were natural blocks to such intrusions and everyone found it reasonable to patiently wait for communication from the important people in their lives.
Unfortunately, we can’t just turn back the clock. Smartphones are here and they have radically altered the way our society works. As we move into the uncertain future, these problems that we have now are only going to get worse and more prevalent. We have become far more “connected” than ever before, but in reality this is just an illusion. Human beings thrive on illusion, though, and the stimulation that many people receive when that text tone goes off is nearly irresistable.
It simply grates on my nerves.