Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are "smartphones" really smart? {smart is a funny word}

I've had issues for awhile now with the amount of time spent on "smartphones." Whether it be the person sitting in the passenger seat in the car who never looks up from their phone the entire drive or the person sitting at the table while we're out to eat who is constantly looking at their phone or the always fun person who texts (or worse, checks facebook) in the middle of your conversation, it just bugs me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not exempt from all of these, I have an iPhone too....and I resisted for a very long time for the above reasons (plus some). But now I've found myself constantly checking my phone for emails or text messages or to see which one of my friends is doing what on facebook. It's horrible, absolutely horrible. I'm so so close to giving up the phone in favor for a cheaper one (if only I could find one that takes good pictures!).

It just so happens I read an article about this exact thing this morning. It compared the constant checking of phones to constant snacking. Good analogy right? The author talks about how her family went on a weekend trip and the whole way there, all 5 of them were texting, tweeting, connecting with everyone else except the people in the car. When they got to their destination they all panicked when they realized there was no cell service. She says, "the uncomfortable feeling that we were missing out on something important overtook our intentions to enjoy downtime together."

"In our culture, we are measured by the value of our network," says Genevieve Bell, a cultural anthropologist, "a cell phone is a leash, tethering us to that network." Dropping the leash is good for the soul though. I mean, think about religions. Every major religion has some sort of built-in break, Sundays or Saturdays.....a few hours a week, a week each year....something set aside to drop everything else and focus on one thing, God. Couldn't we all do this with our phones, put them down and focus on what's more important? What's going on around us?

This is where the excuses come in though, and the most popular one (around my house anyway) "I use my phone for work purposes, people need to get a hold of me." The author has a really great suggestion to deal with that one: "Use your facebook status or e-mail vacation responder to announce that you are offline. Managing other people's expectations (meaning that they should not expect to hear from you instantly) can give you a guilt-free breather."

The cultural anthropologist I mentioned earlier, Genevieve Bell, makes a really good point though: all of this stuff is relatively new. There was a time in our culture where people argued about whether we should watch TV during dinner and overtime, people figured it out. She mentions 2 different trips she has taken to the UK, one 7 years ago where everyone at the table had a phone and it was in the middle of the table and the moment it rang it was answered. The second trip came 2 years later where the phones were pocketed and turned off during dinner. She says that once the initial excitement wears off, common sense and etiquette kick in but that we are still in the process of hammering out the rules.

So, maybe all my pet-peeves about people and their smartphone usage will eventually go away? Maybe common sense will kick in and people will realize what's more important is what's in front of them and around them instead of what's in their hand......or maybe it won't and maybe none of this will change.

I think being aware of it is the first step......I know my habits will change.......

Sorry for the long wordy post....deep thoughts will do that to you =)

Do you have any thoughts on smartphones and how they have changed our lives? You are totally welcome to share!


  1. Having phones are definitely a nice convenience but they can and do definitely tend to take away from real quality face to face time with family and friends(except for those who live far away of course when phones, internet, and skype come in very handy). I sometimes wish we didn't have so many gadgets in our lives and that would keep life much more simple and I believe much more enjoyed.

  2. I am amazed with Ant Lynnie's HTC Android.. it is really SMART! But, some do choose to spend more time than necessary on them... as for me, I have my 'el cheepo' Tracfone.... not really smart (the fone, that is) but it does what I need to do, including texting. And the cost --- less than $10.00 per month.

  3. pitterpatterchildrenApril 5, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Totally feel the same way!! I have been thinking about doing a post about it myself, as it is one of my biggest pet peeves. I think it is the height of rudeness, and it totally gets to me when I am in the car with someone and they would rather be texting, IM ing and reading facebook than having a conversation. I think we all need a break every once in a while.


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