It's not that often that I use this blog for a rant, but today I just can't help it. After noticing the marked increase in the terrible affliction known as Left Lane Driving (LLD), and quickly discovering its cause, I can no longer remain quiet. The culprit in the growth of this virus is also responsible for lameness in relationships, terrible posture, squinty eyes, and a near pandemic of teenaged girls standing in unnatural poses in front of bathroom mirrors.
What could possibly by the cause of these varied and seemingly unrelated ailments?
In this work I will seek to establish the so-called "smart phone" as the bane of our modern existence. I will show how it has invaded our lives and changed almost everything about how we behave, interact with each other, and spend our time.
Here are just some of the odd human behaviors that have resulted from the proliferation of smart phones in our society:
1. People look at their phones almost constantly while driving. I HATE this one. As if folks (not including myself, of course, as I am an excellent driver, AND I would never group myself into any category named "folks") aren't bad enough drivers without an addiction to a small rectangular distraction device. Take a small survey for yourself. Next time you are out driving a dangerous, fast, heavy, mostly-metallic contraption called a car, notice how many people are doing so while looking down at their phones, as if there is nothing dangerous about it, as if looking away from what they are doing doesn't threaten the lives of everyone around them in serious ways. This is really common at intersections, in which lights can turn green and cars just sit there waiting for someone to honk, except that more and more there is nobody to honk, because everyone is looking down at their phones. It has been known to happen that entire green lights have gone unused by clueless zombies texting nothing more important than "lol."
2. People ignore each other by instead being engrossed in that little screen. Go into any restaurant, coffee shop, airport, or waiting room and what will you see? People who are supposedly together who are anything but together. "Together" now means nothing more than occupying adjacent space. It certainly doesn't mean conversation, or eye contact, or true listening. I can pick up three or four teenaged boys and drive them all the way across the state to a soccer match and won't hear a thing for hours. Why? Because they are all playing something on their phones, or "liking" something posted somewhere, or posting something for someone else to "like." It's even more embarrassing (for them) to see "couples" sitting at a restaurant table clicking away on their phones and not interacting at all, except maybe to show a meaningless video or post to the other person for a quick laugh or smirk. Deep. Have you ever had anyone get into the car with you and as soon as they hit the passenger seat they immediately get out their phone and start tapping away, ignoring you for miles and miles?
3. People now multi-task during almost every waking hour. Just watch teenagers today. For most of them, it is so natural to multi-task that they can almost never be caught doing only one thing at once. And what could be so important that it would be allowed to intrude into meals, conversations, movie watching, etc. etc? Looking at their smart phones, of course. Group chats, texts, social media posts and replies, all add up to minute-by-minute interruptions that our young ones take as natural. There is a complete lack of singleness and focus in our smart phone culture, and we've become interruptible to the point of lunacy.
4. The smart phone slouch. There is a certain posture that goes along with smart phone fixation: hand slightly extended forward, elbow bent, head forward, neck bent downward. It's the smart phone slouch. This is most easily spotted (in fact, try to avoid seeing it) in airports. Nine out of ten people are standing in the smart-phone-slouch position, fixated on their screens.
5. The smart phone conversation. This is the loud talking smart phone user who pollutes the air around him with the noise of his conversation, shouted into the phone as if the person on the other end is deaf. This, thankfully, has become slightly more rare as texting has taken over. At least when people text all the time their slouching is quiet.
6. Ridiculous response time expectation. I once had someone ask me if I was mad at them because I didn't respond to their text within an hour. Now mind you, I don't fight terrorists, I am not involved in any emergency rescue operations, and nothing I do professionally can't wait a few hours here and there. Why was this person so expectant of a quick response? Because such fast (nearly immediate) reaction times are now so common as to become the norm. Our availability has become dictated by a secret enemy called "smart phone culture" which demands we be on-hand, ready to respond, all the time and any time.
Here are some questions to ponder:
1. How did this happen to us?
2. Did we give it permission to happen or did it sneak in unawares?
3. Assuming that all the good things smart phones can do for us outweigh the bad we've been considering, how can we at least control our addiction to them a little?
4. Where does it go from here?
5. How much worse can it get?
6. What might be the long term ramifications of such a radical shift in how we humans interact (or don't) with each other?
7. Why do teenaged girls stand like that in front of their mirrors while taking pictures of themselves?
8. And finally, who is John Galt?