Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Zombies of the New Millennium: Are Cell Phones Killing Genuine Social Contact?

by Nomad

cell phonesWe live in an incredible age of communication. Keeping in touch with family and friends has never been easier. And yet, how much contact do we need before we lose focus.
Should we be thinking more about prioritizing our social interactions?

Don't get me wrong. Cell phones are wonderful tools. Sometimes I can't imagine how we ever existed without them. Finding somebody in a crowd, for example, or reaching somebody in an emergency. 
What did I use to do when I got lost on the way to a club or on the way to a house party? I can't even remember. It seems so long ago. I suppose I threw myself on the ground and wept until some kind stranger took pity on me. 

With a cell phone, all those annoying dilemmas are in the past. Yet these days, a new problem has cropped up. 
Cell phone zombie-ism.
I suppose most of us at one time or another have experienced this. Not long ago, I watched in disgust when I found myself among my friends and suddenly realizing that I was the only one in the group that wasn't staring at a cell phone and silently finger-pushing their screens. 

"Go on, I can hear you." one of my friends said. Without even bothering to make eye-contact or lift his head. Hearing is not listening. You hear a noise, You listen to music.
I found it very irritating that I had made the effort to go out and meet face to face, only to sit with zombies chatting away with distant people I didn't know who hadn't made any effort at all. 

Nobody's knocking social inaction using technology but there has to also be some kind of prioritizing. If not, I might as well stay home and interrupt somebody else's good time without bothering to shave or wash my greasy locks.

Words of an Expert
That opinion apparently puts me firmly into the coffin-dodger population, according to an informal study published in Psychology Today.
This isn’t addiction. This is social interaction. When you conduct your social life via text, keeping track of your cell phone takes on particular importance. Older adults, like me, shouldn’t make judgments about cell phone use in younger adults, or at least we should withhold the negative evaluations of people constantly checking their cell phones.
So, according to Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University, I am not supposed to judge. They are, after all, only checking. But I wonder how often does one need to check who has texted them, sent them a message or tried to phone. Given all those possibilities for contact, checking will be answering and answering means a back and forth text-chat.
No need to get so worked up, old-timer.
It's hard not judge when the person I am spending time with suddenly tunes me out, leaving me feeling as lonesome as a leper with unwashed socks.

It is, the professor claims, a problem between generations. Old people are often painted as an averse to change, ignorant of anything new and stubborn. I've never thought of myself like that. (Who does?) Apparently my "unreasonable" demand for eye contact fits into this profile. 

mobile telephone
According to the article, I am supposed to respect the rudeness. Seriously? I am not sure if I am quite that masochistic to pay homage to what is essentially antisocial behavior. 
In the article, Professor Hyman writes
Perhaps instead we can respect the cell phone and internet natives. These young adults have grown up using cell phones and the internet. They’ve learned to effectively maintain and enhance (and sometimes end) social relationships through the ether. Maybe they will be more engaged with and attached to their social groups than older adults who are still learning to keep in touch in the modern era.
I - the wheezing geezer- would beg to disagreed with the researchers here. Social relationships might be maintained but enhanced? I am not so sure. More engaged? I don't think so. It's an illusion of engagement or at least, a safe substitute for engagement. 

Besides that, going out socially should mean face to face communication. That demands that we play by some basic rules of etiquette. Eye contact, facial expressions, asking questions, nodding, noticing when somebody has dropped dead are some examples. These are signs that you appreciate somebody's company. That's not too hard to understand. 

In the end, my love-hate relationship resolved itself naturally when I purchased my own smart phone last summer. 
In no time at all, this relic of a bygone era somehow and against my will, became a pod person too.

Along with Director Miles Crawford, writer and actress Charlene deGuzman produced this thought-provoking short film about the downside of being constantly connected.