Those who read my blog know, I’m very rarely the first in line to embrace a new technology. My first cell phone was purchased only two and a half years ago. I was also very late to join Facebook. Once I do adopt a new technology, it is usually because it benefits my life substantially. At that point, I tend to become a total convert. I now spend a large amount of time networking, sharing, and interacting in various ways on social media sites and in 2010 I made the conversion to a smart phone and haven’t looked back since. Life without it would be unpleasant.
This weekend I was out with two friends. We were engaged in fairly mundane activities (watching a hockey game, consuming fatty foods, and drinking beer.) The night was fairly typical for us. The first part of the night, we got caught up on what each other were doing had various discussions about politics, work etc. Then later on in the night as the game got kind of boring, and there was a lag in conversation, my other friend, let’s call him “R” and myself began to turn to our smart phones. This is now as natural to me as breathing. My third friend, “J” got cranky and felt that cell phone use (while fairly minor) was a violation of “face time” with him.
I was reminded again how we are in a period of transition. Though clearly the writing is on the wall and the overlap between real and virtual social networks will continue to expand. This divide, between those who are plugged into online connections and those who are not, for the short-term, will create friction between the two groups; however, the latter group is shrinking very rapidly. I suspect in a few years those not plugged in will be considered an oddity (maybe we’re already there?)
Now certainly everyone is entitled to live their lives as they choose, but I can’t help but remember that hanging out in a bar watching a game, at one time, would have been considered anti-social. “Why hang out with other people if you are just going to watch TV?” Society has changed and we now recognize that we can also socialize while using this technological device. Simply put, social interactions never stop.
The same is true of smart phones. They are not making us less social, if anything they are making us more social. This is basic human nature and it’s not surprising that a technology that has expanded the ways we connect with others has been so successful and widely adopted. Fighting this trend is futile. It’s the present not the future.
Here is another thought: while it would be rude to constantly be talking with individuals who are not physically present (and ignoring those in real time around you) it is equally rude to force someone to ignore those individuals who are not present and completely monopolize their time because you are currently in their physical space.
Obviously a balance has to be struck. Where do you think this balance is?