Cell phones and pigs.

I think back to the days when I inadvertently breathed life into this blog. Every post I wrote was initially about inspiration of some sort. Not cheesy store bought inspiration but inspiration from real life and the struggles it brings. This post isn't necessarily anything like that, almost the opposite actually.

I have the opportunity to work with kids on a daily basis. I am so glad I am not trying to grow up in the times we live in. Seeing what they are exposed to and things they have to deal with which as an adult I can barely conceive, makes me cringe. I have said it before and will say it again, I believe my biggest single failure as a parent was giving our kids cell phones. They all had them by the time they were in high school for certain maybe earlier and this was tenish years ago.

Cell phones aren't the problem per se, that is too simplistic. It's the culture which really bothers me. This disconnected, I'm in my phone don't bother me attitude. I hate it. I see so many kids who are growing up with this disconnect from interpersonal interaction because they can't look up from their devices. Its ridiculous and sad.

Awhile back my daughter was visiting from the planet where she resides and we went to some fancy Chinese-ish restaurant. The kind where everyone dresses up like it's a big deal. I watched this family of five across the way. Mother, father and three kids who were not even teens yet. Everyone of them was on their own phone the whole time. I know I am prone to exaggeration but this time I am not, really. What's the point? I think of pigs at a trough. That slop hits the trough and each pig charges for it concerned only about feeding itself and nothing else. Another pig in the way? No problem push him over and get your own food. I don't get it. I truly don't.

How often we joke and reminisce about the days when there was one phone at our house, for the WHOLE family. Oh my. I have at least four phone numbers myself now. I remember finally getting the nerve to call, let's say a girl for dramatic effect, only to have her dad answer. Then comes the awkward divulging of who you are and trying to politely leave a message in hopes it might be delivered by a father who, if he had any sense would not want me within a mile of his daughter. (And he did not.)

But look at the courage it took to make the call as well as the cunning and research necessary to figure out what his work schedule was for example in order to avoid the awkwardness. Shit, nowadays you just text the person directly and gain no sense of accomplishment or building of character. Honestly one might argue the way people hide behind their devices, it is doing just the opposite.  I guess there is a reason old people are old and youth is squandered on the young. I just don't know what it is yet.

Technology has its place. I get it and I use it. I just really don't like the way people are disconnecting from real interaction and replacing it with whatever it is I am missing in a phone.

What is inspirational about this? Great question.

Got a comment? Please post it, let's talk. I would love to hear an opposing viewpoint which makes sense.


B.W. Morris said...

I will say that one positive cell phones bring is that there's little need for a landline number. When I moved from New Mexico to Oklahoma, I decided not to have a landline number to save money. I get hardly any solicitors or robocallers disturbing me, which is a big plus if you are trying to write. Plus I don't worry about missing an important call if I have the cell phone with me.

But I get what you are saying. When I joined the family for a short vacation, I mostly used the cell phone to take photos. Of course, I'd put them up on Facebook or Twitter, and I might check my email, but I didn't do it anywhere near the amount I tend to.

Perhaps I'm different because of how things were for me in the past. There was a point when I had no cable TV because I was paying off debts. I found out that I didn't miss TV and, as I got older, I watched it less, not more. Now I've reached the point where I may just cut the cord.

Perhaps every family needs to go through a brief period in which they just don't have their cell phones with them. A vacation seems to be the perfect time. Then again, what else will they do when they are waiting for the airplane or, if you drive a car, keep the kids from asking "are we there yet?"

MJ LaBeff said...

I couldn't agree with you more Gordon. I think we've lost the art of conversation and truly living in the moment. What compels us to share so much today? Growing up I remember a time when privacy was important to most people. Don't misunderstand me, I think we can all learn from sharing on FB, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and so on but when does it all become too much? Especially if we're with family and friends, should we pause and post about the moment later? Then it feels less timely and maybe the moment is lost and we can't find the words? Of course as writers... Anyway I've learned to embrace this brave new world of technology we live in and appreciate its usefulness and try to stay mindful when I'm with family and friends to leave the iPhone alone. Let's practice the art of making eye contact and listening. I think you might have blogged about that and see I'm listening 😊 Hmmm...

Karen Williams said...

It bothers me, too, to see so many people, especially youngsters, with their faces buried in their screens. We also gave our kids phones in middle school and fought the same battle. One of the three has been able to successfully disconnect from both her phone and Social Media as a constant distraction (probably better than her parents!)

It's a challenge to keep a balance between appropriate screen-time and healthy face-time (the old-fashioned kind, NOT FaceTime!)

Gordon A. Wilson said...

How in the world do we communicate in person? Smell the roses...

Edward Selender said...

Gordon, I had long ago wanted to write an opinion piece on this subject, as I also have strong feelings about this. Apparently, you beat me to it, but am so glad I am not the only one who feels as you, as I was beginning to feel like something of a dinosaur.

I have only had my smartphone (had flip phone before) for about 20 months, and believe I've only been on Twitter and had my own blog for maybe 16-18 months, so I vividly recall vowing I would never become one of those seemingly selfish individuals looking down at their smartphone, oblivious to their surroundings while sitting with a group of people (or pigs). I also recall thinking I would be the last person to text instead of calling someone, as that also seemed rather impersonal.

Since then, I admit I've somewhat fallen victim to the same bad habit of checking or going on my phone while out with or visiting family. At least, though, I feel like I am aware of it and attempting to curb this bad habit. In my defense, I think part of this bad behavior has been a result of trying to keep up my my growing Twitter, and burgeoning? blog, followers im my limited spare time (while not at my 9-5).

However, like you and MJ, I also feel technology has its place and feel strongly that we should establish some boundaries between spending time with family and friends and using our smartphones.

For example, on a recent visit to my mom (whom I live 300 miles from and don't get to see very often), I remember going on my phone, trying to tweet, while we were watching tv. At one point, maybe more than once (think I may have been doing this, too, at dining room table while my mom was preparing breakfast or some other scrumptious meal...I know, think I hit rock bottom there), I recall my mom asking me why I was spending so much time on my phone (my mom has an I-phone, but mostly uses it for, gasp, phone calls and checking the weather in Caribou Maine- I love to tease her about that).

I think my initial reaction was surprise, as thought my mom wouldn't notice, while watching tv or way over in the kitchen, then maybe being frustrated or even annoyed, at not being able to do my ALL important Twitter work. I soon started feeling guilty, but perhaps still tried to do some Tweeting on the sly (sorry Mom).

Similarly, was at fireworks, with my aunt, on July 2, and was trying to tweet, during breaks in our pleasant conversation (my mom's sister, this aunt has become like a second mom to me). One of those tweets, which seemed so important at the time (it wasn't), was about how John Adams had originally suggested commemorating July 2nd with fireworks (you'll be glad to know I waited till after the fireworks to send that tweet and my traditional Think Big Sunday with Marsha tweet).

In an ironic twist, I ended up temporarily losing my smartphone ( think when I got up to get us some kettlecorn). After a nice person nearby found the phone and returned it to me, I took the back of the case off, to remove a plastic strip which had come loose, and unwittingly put the case on the wrong way - I didnt discover this till later- which caused the phone to keep shutting down because the case was pressing down on the "power"/ on-off button.

Even then, despite my aunt's protests (I think because I was freaking out that something was wrong with my phone), I continued to try to keep going, in vain, on my phone to Tweet. After reading your post Gordon I realize it may have been poetic justice. Think I have finally learned my lesson.

While I was at fireworks the following night, I put my snartphone away, rather than miss the beautiful display, after trying in vain to get a decent shot of the fireworks.

I may not be totally cured of my smartphone problem, but am definitely making progress. You'll be happy to know no pigs were harmed during the posting of this comment.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

I think I would like to see each of you who have so generously taken the time to comment work up a guest post on the subject. Who knows maybe we could bring some more awareness to the seeming lack of balance. I love technology as much as most but I can see some real damage occurring as well. Thanks for posting the comments and if you are interested, please let me know.

Linda Zupancic said...

Great article, yes cell phones a love/hate relationship. I have had one for twenty years because of our business, but over the last few years it has become my camera. I got tired of the processing steps that you needed to do with an SLR camera, and we weren't doing the same nature photography as in earlier years, a gradual shift. I also shifted into Facebook but have now back tracked with that except for my author blog promotion and related stuff. It becomes too much, distracting and time stealing. I am a Nana of 11 grandkids, so I am trying to be a good example for them. I heard of one cell phone idea, which hasn't been a problem for my group of friends,yet. IDEA: When you are out for dinner with friends, put your cell phones stacked in the middle of the table, muted. Whoever reaches for the cell phone first during the visit, will pay the whole restaurant bill.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Love hate I get that. I use mine all the time and while I am glad I have there are times I wish I didn't. I use mine for a camera more than a phone as well, it is just so convenient. The part where people are not interacting because they are so wrapped up is a shame. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.