CELLPHONES: The Importance of Putting It Down
by Voices Editor
October 21, 2015 | Voices
Maybe it’s time to stop and smell the roses…
As I walked down a familiar street on a hot summer day, I looked up from my phone and saw that I was about to walk by someone I went to high school with. I looked back down at my phone so as not to stare from a distance. I then waited for the moment where we were close enough to say “Hi” without being too awkwardly far away from each other. As we got closer, I gazed up and noticed that he had yet to look up from his phone and with earphones in his years, we swiftly walked right by one another. He had no idea I was even there. Slightly confused but not too bothered considering he wasn’t one of my close friends, I kept walking. As I continued down the street, I noticed my cousin walking towards me. Considering she was family, I didn’t feel the need to look back down and wait for the right moment to acknowledge her presence. Before I could say anything, I noticed that she too was looking down at her phone with headphones on and had yet to notice me approaching. I decided not to say anything, kind of like an experiment, and to wait and see if she would notice me. In shock, I walked right by my cousin as if we were perfect strangers. She never looked up to notice I was there. Either I’m completely invisible, or I ‘m starting to notice a serious pattern here. If we can’t look up from our devices long enough to notice an old friend or a family member passing by us on the street, then what else are we allowing to pass us by without looking up long enough to notice?
I believe there was a time when it was a normal thing to strike up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to you on a bus. You’d be sitting there, surrounded by people, with nothing better to do than to get to know another person. Nowadays, we sit on metros, buses and trains in total and complete silence. Staring at our phones, we do our best to ignore the people around us, avoiding contact at all costs. Truthfully, on the rare occasion that someone near me does introduce themselves, I find myself shocked and almost scared, as if this person must have some ulterior motive because the chances that a stranger just wants to have a conversation with another stranger seems highly impossible to me.
Not too long ago, I was struck by the sight of a mother standing on a bus with earphones in, staring at her phone, completely ignoring her little girl. As the girl tugged at her mother’s clothes, it was clear that she wanted nothing more than her mother’s attention. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of message she was sending her child. With no words at all, she managed to clearly tell her daughter that whatever was on the screen of that cell phone was considerably more important than spending time with her. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve witnessed something like this. Whether it’s between a mother and daughter, friends or significant others, whether it be conscious or sub-conscious, we continue to tell the people around us that what’s on our phones is more important than they are
The funny thing is, as I sit in this coffee shop and type this up on my phone, I notice that everyone else in here seems to be doing something similar. Whether they’re checking Facebook, texting a friend or even writing an article like me, they’re staring down at a screen and essentially ignoring everyone around them. I myself am guilty of exactly the same thing.
I believe there was a time when people used to get on the city bus or subway and meet people. It wasn’t considered weird or creepy to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. In fact, it was rude not to. Nowadays we stand directly next to someone and stare down at our phones, acting as if no one at all is around. And what for? Because we enjoy conversations with strictly abbreviated words that appear on a screen rather than real words that come straight from another human’s mouth? Because we’ve become so accustomed to being anti-social that we don’t even really know how to strike up a conversation anymore? Maybe we are just so comfortable isolating ourselves from others that we are scared to be any different.
If our preoccupation with our phones can enable us to miss so much in terms of the people in our lives, then I worry about what else we are missing by failing to look up every now and then. I often wonder when the last time someone watched a sunset without taking a picture of it was, or how often people actually enjoy a meal without posting it on Instagram.
My real concern is the extent of our obsession. In general, I think we often have trouble with moderation. Once we’re into something, we consume ourselves with it 24/7. When we stop viewing the world through our own eyes and begin to only view it through a screen, we begin to miss the good stuff; the real stuff.