Erin Petersen

Isolation? There’s an app for that

By - Jul 2nd, 2010 04:00 am
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Courtesy of Apple

The iPhone 4 is here. Since it’s original release in 2007, it has completely revolutionized the concept of what mobile phones can do.

It’s like those magical all-in-one-machines you see on late-night infomercials. It takes pictures, sends email, updates social networking sites, acts as a GPS, streams movies in HD, corrects your yoga postures, identifies woodland creatures, Names that Tune , slices ,dices, makes julienne fries…

It costs more than what most people pay in rent each month, but the need has been created, and there’s no going back.

You don’t have to be some fancy executive to enjoy or afford the manufactured convenience of a smartphone’s myriad capabilities. Hordes of anxious consumers — everyone from grandpa to the school lunch lady to kids who barely have jobs– clamored to buy the iPhone, then traded it in for several different upgrades and will do the same for the newest incarnation.

Apple’s latest ad campaign hams up the implication that deeper emotional connections can be created and nurtured through its technology. With the iPhone 4, one can see and hear and talk to people that are thousands of miles away via video phone, thereby making us closer to one another and generally improving the quality of life. With all that meandering Louis Armstrong playing in the background, it’s hard not to get sucked in.

But have you ever been stuck in a crowd of folks with fancy phones? It’s infuriating.

(I feel like I should state the obvious in that not all smartphone owners fit this bill — and I’m totally gonna pull this card — I have friends who own them and are perfectly respectable human beings who know that there is a place and time for everything.)

I was at a show in Madion earlier this week. It was at a relatively large, clean venue with good sound and stiff drinks. I secured a nice piece of real estate in the crowd, but it wasn’t long before my view was blocked by people who, instead of watching the show with their eyes, decided to fire up the old iPhone camera and watch it that way.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. We’re close enough that we’re getting sprayed with singing spittle, and you’re watching through your cell phone? What are you going to do with that video later — post it to Facebook , or look at it later since you were too busy to actually watch the show while it was happening?

Family Dinner by Artotem via Flickr

This same thing happened earlier this month. I was at the Pabst, stuck in nosebleed seats and already having a hard time getting into it because not only was it hard to see,I could barely hear over all of the audience chatter. When the music started, the talking only got louder– and then came out the cell phone cameras.

Some people were taking video, others text messaging and barely watching the show.

Not everyone with a fancy phone is so egregiously rude,and taking a few pics with your phone is totally fine. But it gets under my skin that purveyors of technology have us all thinking that the best way to connect is through the conduits that they provide.

Instead of helping people form new relationships or enrich existing ones, it’s created a generation of  people who are so obsessed with being “plugged in” that they can’t get through an entire song without updating Twitter, just to prove that they were there.

People like the couple I saw on Tuesday night, who sat together, but who never actually spoke to each other. They just pawed at their phones, occasionally breaking gaze to show the other person their screen. This was all over the place that night — while the band was sweating and clapping and jumping around, a good portion of the crowd stood in pairs but were ultimately alone,heads down, swaying to the music and typing away.

Meanwhile, it would seem that we’ve become so concerned with documenting the most mundane things and making grand pronouncements and reaching out into the darkness of the vast information super highway that we can hardly be so vulnerable with fellow humans, face to face, while real life is happening.

It’s a hard habit to break. Even as I’m writing this, my phone is within arm’s reach on my desk.

But it’s consistently disappointing to have the good parts of life — like music and conversation– stonewalled by the devices that are supposed to bring us together. Someone told me the other day that taking out your phone to text while someone is talking to you is akin to pulling out a crossword puzzle. I like that analogy.

So, the next time you see me at a show staring blankly at my phone instead of paying attention to the present, I give you permission to slap it out of my hand. (That is unless I actually do purchase a $700 iPhone, in which case just tell me to put it away. And then buy me a drink because I’ll be broke.)

Categories: ADversary, Pop Culture

0 thoughts on “ADversary: Isolation? There’s an app for that”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The crossword analogy is so very apt – thank you Ms. Manners (who I think is the originator)

    During Riverwest’s Power Down Week there was a real-life “Wall” like a FaceBook wall created in the community for people to share what they’re doing and connect.

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