As you’re probably aware, there is considerable debate, sociological research, and speculation about the effects smart phones are having on millennials. Behavioral scientists cite evidence that suggests the phones may be destroying youths’ ability to concentrate and even comprehend. Biotech experts claim smartphones might be disconnecting an entire generation from the “stuff” that really matters; that is, youth might be losing their ability to communicate with one another in a warm, intimate, face-to-face, eye-to-eye manner. Indeed, one survey at the University of Maryland indicates that one in three students say they’d rather give up sex than their phones.
Well, could be, I suppose. But I’m rather skeptical of such claims. Still, I’d like to share a couple personal experiences that I’ve found rather whimsical and surprising. For instance, a few months ago a first-class lady and myself were celebrating her birthday in Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill. We were finishing our before-dinner cocktails when her phone beeped. “Excuse me,” she pardoned herself. “I have to take this.” When our meals arrived, she terminated her phone conversation, but throughout the entire dinner she continued texting whomever she was dealing with. “Sorry about this,” she apologized again.
I finally suggested she turn the damned thing off, but to no avail. “I can’t,” she explained. “I get nervous and neurotic when I do that.”
Which would seem to sustain the notion that smart phones are disrupting our warmer, more intimate emotions.
So, the other night I walked into the Ski Inn (a rather common occurrence) and noticed damn near everyone in the place was hunched over their phones. Though I tried to spark a few conversations nothing much materialized. A few nodded hello, but no one actually broke their electronic connection.
Eventually, I ran across a friend who laid his phone aside and we started talking about one thing or another. In the course of our exchange, we started arguing about the Foo Fighters and the musicians who were in that band. Alas, the answer to our debate was readily available (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) and he started punching his phone again. However, in the course of his pursuit, he abruptly paused and his face was suddenly swept by a blank, vacant stare. “What’s wrong?” I wondered. He giggled softly and said, “I forget what I’m looking for.”
Researchers might attribute such a lapse in concentration to my friend’s excessive smart phone usage, but other factors might also be involved.
And finally, you may have heard one, if not both, of two anecdotes surrounding the death of Steve jobs, co-founder of Apple. His close friends and relatives had gathered around him at his hospital bed. A few comments were exchanged, including a few by Steve. From time to time, he’d flat-line and the visitors would think he was gone, but then his eyes would flicker open again and he’d say something. Some witnesses claim his last words were, “Oh, wow”, as if he’d seen or comprehended something new that he’d never realized before.
However, I prefer another unverified story that was circulating through New York’s underground punk circles as the time. This narrative suggests that Steve’s eyes flickered open, he drew one last feeble breath, smile, and whispered, “Excuse me, I have to take this.” I don’t know if that’s a true story, but I like to think it is.