I’m new to the smartphone game. Every day I feel like I learn something new. A better app for this, a better way to store that. The way my phone has the capability to do so much in such a little frame, the way it documents and organizes my life and the way it helps me sit around and waste time — these things are both amazing and disturbing.
In a matter of seconds you can get updates from your favorite news outlets or tell the world about your meanderings. You can check out your favorite website to get a good laugh, or you can post something obnoxiously personal on one of your many social media profiles.
Have five minutes to kill before class? Browse through pictures on Reddit. Think of something clever? Tweet that thing — the world is waiting on all 140 characters of your drivel. Hanging out with friends at Jupiter’s? Check in on Facebook; that person who just happens to be everywhere you are (alone, though) might need an update.
But like most things, the smartphone has a few drawbacks. Battery life is something a lot of people complain about. Another is the fact that you buy a phone today, only to see Apple or one of its competitors offer an upgraded version tomorrow for a similar price. These are legitimate concerns that should be addressed by someone, but I think I’ll pass.
Instead I’d like to bring to light one of my core concerns regarding smartphones: their users.
Full disclosure: I, too, am guilty of some of the ensuing smartphone sins. But since it is the Lenten season, let’s thump some Bibles and let the wild repent start.
The concept is pretty simple: When you are hanging out with someone or some people, leave your phone in your pocket. And for God’s sake, please don’t put it out on the table.
Are you timing our conversation? Or just recording it? Oh, I get it, you’re not doing any of those things. You’re just being an ass.
When someone puts their phone down on the table, it makes the conversation at hand seem suddenly less important. It’s as if at any moment, that special call (like anyone calls anymore) or text will come through and rescue you from the dullness of person-to-person interaction. What good are facial expressions when you have the emoji? And an actual conversation, Face Time included (Skype doesn’t count), is so obviously inferior to the range of tone, inflection and body language you can achieve via text that the former is nearly obsolete.
But even then, there are things more socially egregious than putting your phone out on display. You could text and talk, which is about as distracting as texting and driving.
If you’re waiting on a text, just let it wait in your pocket. Is there anything more obnoxious than someone looking at their phone, grinning or, even worse, laughing, as you sit across from them? For the sake of argument, I am going to say no.
Texting while sitting with your friend or friends says you’ve got more important people to attend to. And even if that’s true, you are still violating a code of social conduct (being present) by actively texting in front of company. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, a text-and-talk kind of person — someone who does this regularly — is the kind of person who is their own biggest fan. A schmoozer, a hand-shaker, or in short, a very bad politician in the making.
But we can’t really call them out, because most of us have been complicit in the same behavior at one time or another. And since most people wouldn’t get the goodnatured humor of smacking the phone from their hands screaming, “Are you not entertained?” our options become few.
Hence our Lenten challenge. It’s nondenominational; hell, it can even be nontheist and called the 40-day nondouche dare. But no matter what you call it or how long you endure, just give it a go. Put your phone in your pocket and release yourself from the quotidian nightmare of Tweets and check-ins. Throw caution to the wind and dare to strike up a conversation with someone outside of your classroom instead of browsing Reddit, and give your friends a fighting chance to have a real conversation with you.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll notice the contours of a person’s face actually do hold some value the emoji can’t capture. Or that the sound of their voice synced with the movement of their lips and the language of their body can actually relay what someone means pretty well compared to the text message. And if none of those reasons entice you, think of your fingers. I think they’re probably overdue for some rest — God knows they deserve it.