It recently dawned on me that the iPhone was first unveiled four years ago. Four years. That’s how long we have had iPhones. Can anyone honestly say they can remember what life was like before we had them? I genuinely can’t. What did we all do when waiting for a train? What were the people at the back of lecture theatres doing if not updating their Facebook? How on earth did we survive without Google at our fingertips? And where would our hand-eye-coordination be without Angry Birds?
These questions may seem like a joke, and they partly are, but, unfortunately, I think I’m also being serious. We have turned into a nation of smartphone addicts, and the affliction is starting at a younger and younger age. Just last week, my three-year old nephew taught me how to buy Angry Birds on the App Store (after which I wasn’t allowed to play it because I wasn’t as good as him).
This revelation, of course, isn’t new or unique, but as a firm advocate of real life conversations I feel I need to speak up. However, to improve the horribly pretentious tone I seem to have adopted, I’m going to go ahead and admit that I’m completely guilty of everything I have just mentioned. I will do just about anything to avoid talking on the phone to anyone. Even my mum calling me makes me nervous; the trick is to keep the phone always on silent so that when I text back saying ‘OH EM GEE I’m SO sorry I missed your call, my phone was on silent!’ despite the fact that I watched my phone ringing. I don’t know why but I have an irrational fear of talking on the phone – most likely due to my irrational fear of awkward silences. After discussing my phobia with my friends, I realised that the population is comprised of two kinds of people: ‘callers’ and ‘texters’. Apparently, I’m a texter. Thankfully, this is all I have to admit since declining the procedure to have my iPhone surgically attached to my hand (which was offered free with the purchase of my 10,000th app).
However, it’s not all bad. Thanks to instant messaging in the palm of our hands, multitasking has finally been extended to both genders. Having an exclusively one-on-one conversation with someone is a thing of the past, what with BBM calling every 3 seconds and an email alert every 4, you can converse with up to 6 people at once. This new modern world sounds great! Or so it seems. Unfortunately, the person physically sat in front of you will become awkwardly forgotten – left mid-sentence by you and your over-enthusiastic Blackberry. That’s right BBM, I’m blaming you.
Right next to instant messaging are self-service machines in supermarkets. In theory, these are very quick and convenient (though apparently the majority of London’s population do find the concept of ‘something unexpected in the bagging area’ very confusing). The other obvious advantage of self-service, apart from the lack of judgement of what you are buying, is the avoidance of talking to the cashier. I didn’t realise how much I did dread this until I found myself waiting in the longest self-service queue so that I wouldn’t have to take my headphones out and tell the cashier that I will never want cash back. Combine this with three years of learning how to expertly avoid the gaze of every single person in a packed tube train, and you have a successfully isolated individual in one of the world’s busiest cities. But at least I have 420 Facebook friends.
One mustn’t forget that BBM, iPhones, and other similar devices, aren’t a substitute for human interaction, and ‘facebook stalking’ isn’t a substitute for actually getting to know someone. Like sliced bread, smartphones and wireless internet are some of the world’s greatest inventions, and like sliced bread, they save us lots of time and effort. So let’s use this time wisely and have a nice cosy chat with a friend – one at a time though.
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