Sunday, September 27, 2015

You are not invisible. Put down the phone.

In "Stop Googling. Let's Talk," Sherry Turkle reports what she's learned about the ubiquitous habit of checking one's phone and what it has done to conversation, especially within families:
One 15-year-old I interviewed at a summer camp talked about her reaction when she went out to dinner with her father and he took out his phone to add “facts” to their conversation. “Daddy,” she said, “stop Googling. I want to talk to you.” A 15-year-old boy told me that someday he wanted to raise a family, not the way his parents are raising him (with phones out during meals and in the park and during his school sports events) but the way his parents think they are raising him — with no phones at meals and plentiful family conversation. 
In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan led by the psychologist Sara Konrath put together the findings of 72 studies that were conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.
But doing one thing at a time is hard, because it means asserting ourselves over what technology makes easy and what feels productive in the short term. Multitasking comes with its own high, but when we chase after this feeling, we pursue an illusion. Conversation is a human way to practice unitasking.
 Go read the whole thing; it's worth it.

The thing is, if you take out your phone because they* take out their phone, all of a sudden it's a phone duel and not a conversation. You both win, and the conversation loses. 

TL;dr. You are not invisible. You are a human being in a community of human beings. Put down the phone.

Or, as Sherry Turkle says, "Conversation is a human way to practice unitasking."

*I am trying out the inclusive "their" to see if I can do it.
[Edited because I sounded like the world's crankiest crankypants and am tired of being negative. ]


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

My hubby and I are guilty of "too much phoning." What is hard about this is (1) we are both workaholics, and since he's out of work, he's on his phone a lot to try to get work, and/or answer emails about freelance, etc. (2) We both read the news on the phones, so instead of looking at a newspaper for a half hour in the morning the way my parents did, I look at a phone. It's clearly alienating for everyone. (3) We both are insanely curious, so if we have a thought about something we don't know, we want to look it up right away to satisfy that curiosity. It's probably annoying to other people, but we find it deeply satisfying to know things.

But the worst part of all this is that our kids watch us use our devices constantly, and they want to be just like us -- they want phone time when they are bored or want to watch Netflix or whatever. We say things like, "You need to find something else to do," and then we go right back to our devices. We're hypocrites. My guess is that our kids will never forgive us for being so drawn to the devices. I don't really know what to do about it because we work so hard all the time. I've forgotten what it's like to relax.

I just watched the movie "Her" this weekend while I was putting away laundry (see, I always multi-task. Always.). It really depressed me. I could see a lot of truth in the hyperbolic relationship between Theodore and his operating system. Fortunately, I don't have a hard time interacting with human beings when I'm not on my phone. But I do have a hard time getting off my phone to have time for human beings. It's like there needs to be tech rehab or something. It's definitely addictive.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Apparently there IS rehab for that:

undine said...

It's a tough situation, Fie, especially when you're working as hard as you both are.