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I don’t own an iPhone, a tablet, or whatever the most current ridiculous “phone” is. I don’t want one either. Apparently that makes me a Luddite and probably about one of only a handful of people left in the world immune to the phone manufacturers’ lure. It also means I’ve never bought an “app,” never needed one, nor really know what they are. And comic strip comments on them are getting old. Clearly I cannot comment on the technology itself.

I can, however, comment on its impact on social mores. It used to be considered rude to talk on the phone while in the company of others. Now, however, people seem to need to stare at little hand-held screens regardless of the situation: in class, in theaters, in cinemas, in restaurants, at pubs during conversations… People even seem to use Facebook on their phones to interact with people who are physically in the same room as themselves. This makes no sense to me.

Not being a user of these phones (and having practically eliminated my use of Facebook), this phenomenon largely went unnoticed by me. It came to my attention in one of my (TEFL) classes when we were supposed to be discussing English used when speaking on the phone. One of the students said that they never speak to people on the phone. When I inquired how this could be–as I was constantly telling to put their phones away–the unanimous response was “Facebook.” They were even Facebooking to their classmates at the same table rather than speaking to them in person.

Cell phone were still fairly novel when I was growing up. What that meant was my friends and I had to plan to meet up in advance. We arranged a time, and people showed up. When then did things together and spoke to each other. Somehow, we managed to be spontaneous nevertheless. And, people RSVPed for events.

Today it seems things have gone well past not bothering to RSVP. When and if they show up to something at all, they spend the entire time staring at a device that is ostensibly for connecting with other people, instead of interacting with other people. I fail to see how this can possibly be good for human relationships, community, and society. It seems the more “connected” technology makes us, the less people actually connect with one another.

Technologies never go away. So this situation is here to stay, I presume. The only solution, I suppose, is to be extra deliberate in forming and maintaining relationships. Anyone else willing to revive the old art of letter-writing?

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