My friends and I recently took a trip to the mountains in an attempt to escape the noise of the city and gain some perspective, but the best part wasn’t the quiet or even the views: it was the lack of cell service and the game of hangman that followed.
I’m only 25 but I remember life before everyone had a computer, or “one of those machines” as my mother likes to call them, in their pocket.
We didn’t always sit with our friends and significant others on our iPhone, checking apps as we waited, freaking out over whether or not our posed photos were good enough to post.
My generation and the one below me are by and large not present in social settings; it’s hard to be with these new devices at our grasp. We’re also in idle; unattached and casual. It’s no wonder we sit and scroll; it’s the natural pastime of a passive generation.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the convenience of always having a camera on me. I’m not against presets and filters and editing apps. And I’m an admitted user of social media, but I see that my memories captured in this technologically advanced era are supremely inferior to the ones that hardly were.
In a way, I think this exceedingly advanced technological society shows the fault lines in modernity, “progress” at the expense of losing what’s sacred, even if it’s just being mentally checked in with others.
Surrounded by family and friends, yet still socially isolated, we have become immersed in our own little worlds of influence and platforms. We’ve lost community and the ability to make genuine memories, captured or not.
It’s easy to see how ridiculous other people are with these habits (i.e. when I judge young parents for using their iPhones as a babysitter for their kids), the hard part is being conscious of when you’re doing it yourself.
We see politicians like Senator Josh Hawley heroically trying to take on big tech through legislation, but what if the people, the market, decided to stop paying almost a thousand dollars for a phone and increasingly high service rates? What if people spent less time on social media platforms altogether? They would naturally lose their power.
It’s a tough war to wage. One person opting out doesn’t make a societal difference, and the alternative to buying into the tech world is a losing battle. Try finding a pay phone.
But the widespread use of smartphones has contributed to more than just social isolation, libraries are becoming obsolete, young people aren’t dating in person, work has extended beyond the office since everyone is always online, stalking has become easier, increased worry when someone doesn’t pick up their cell phone, and declining overall health.
Call me Frank Novasky from You’ve Got Mail, but name one thing that we’ve gained from this level of technology. It’s time to exercise the virtue of moderation and temperance – and if obsessive nature can’t monitor itself – abstinence. Technology is meant to improve the quality of our lives. The intention should never have been to completely alter it, especially for what seems to be the worst. Being “plugged in” electronically and absent in the physical world isn’t worth destroying our civilization.
Maybe one day we’ll all decide to toss our phones in a fountain-like Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, signaling: we’re over it.