Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Me, Myself and My Smartphone

John Pattison:

In a 2007 interview with Arthur Boers, the philosopher Albert Borgmann makes the case that television is of moral importance. Borgmann says: “When I teach my ethics course I tell these relatively young people that the most important decision that they’ll make about their household is first whether they’re going to get a television and then second where they’re going to put it.”
I think for my generation and for the generation coming after mine, the questions could probably be amended to (a) “Are you going to get a smartphone?” and (b) “If so, what limits are you going to place on its use?”
These are questions I’m asking myself right now too. I have an iPhone. Am I going to keep it? If so, how should I limit its use? To use a science fiction metaphor, the iPhone is a kind of portal, one that can cause me to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually distant, even when I’m physically present. How often do I want to have that portal open?

Good questions from that writer. I don't own a smartphone, but I still fall prey to the temptation to use technology as a tool to isolate myself from those around me, to be present without really being present. I work in a high-rise office building and it's amazing to me the number of people I encounter in the elevator, or other public spaces, with their eyes glued to a screen. I've had to take evasive action to keep from being run into by someone walking and texting. This characteristic pose of our age -- head down, eyes averted from one's surroundings -- is making meaningful interaction, even common courtesy, a relic of the past. The portal is always open as we shuffle anonymously past one another.


redeyespy said...

I've also seen entire families in restaurants, staring at their phones and nary a word among them.

Stephen Ley said...

Perhaps they were communicating via text.