Saturday, September 21, 2013

Life Doesn't Happen on a Screen

            Imagine this scenario: You’re with a group of friends, talking, having a good time, and then someone pulls out their phone. All of a sudden two other people are on their phone, then the rest, and you are the only one not on your phone. You didn’t receive a text. There’s no one in particular you want to text or call. You don’t need to check facebook or any other social media, but you take out your phone too.

            I’m sure this scenario is easy to imagine, because you’ve most likely been in an eerily similar situation. What happened? Weren’t you having fun talking to your friends? Did conversation die out? Did you all get tired of each other? I doubt it was any of these things, but instead the phenomena is attributed to the effect technology has had on socialization and communication.

            Technology has brought many gifts to this world. Advances in technology help people in almost every field including science, medicine, and communication. People report feeling more connected to the world because you can communicate with almost anyone from almost any part of the world. Done some traveling? You can still stay connected to them in a very easy and convenient way. Want to stay updated with high school friends/acquaintances? You can do that too. Technology is so great. But, like every good thing that isn’t done in moderation, it has its negative effects.

            I remember as a kid, my dad would complain about how much T.V. I watched. “Go outside and play with other kids,” he would say. At a recent family gathering at a family restaurant, my 7 year old nephew was playing with his tablet. My 6 year old cousin was listening to his MP3 player. They were both being quiet and good little boys, not disturbing the adults or acting up. At some point, the younger boy took off his head phones to briefly talk to me and then scooted his way to my nephew to also play with the tablet.

            When I was a kid in the same restaurant, me and my cousin would be talking to each other and invent games we could play quietly together. I see less and less of this happening. Life behind the screen has taken over beginning as small as infants and infecting the older generations.

            We see it often. In classrooms, at malls, walking on the street. So many people have their eyes glued to a screen. They are less aware of their surroundings. Life is happening, but they’re looking at a screen.

            Apple has reported selling “85 million iPhones in the U.S. since 2007 launch and 34 million iPads since 2010” and “between June 2010 and June 2012, Samsung sold 21.25 million phones and 1.4 million Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets.” Apple’s worldwide marketing head Phil Schiller said, “each new model of the iPhone sold approximately the same amount of phones as all previous generations combined.” This is a rapid increase of handheld screens every year.

            Common Sense Media surveyed 1,384 parents for a study about parenting and apps. James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, commented that, “parents increasingly are handing their iPhones to their 1 ½-year-old kid as a shut-up toy.” Parents are on their mobile devices checking different networks, and children are modeling this behavior. Children are growing up in a society where it is normal to look at a screen instead of people. It’s normal to communicate through a screen, whether handheld or not, than face to face.

            Is all this screen time so bad?

            The Editorial Staff at the Northern Iowan claims that technology can harm our ability to deal with conflict, and can damage our personal relationships. Many people are taking the “easy way out” when there is a problem, because instead of personally confronting someone, they send a text or facebook message. They also say, “When we spend so much time on our computers and phones, we lose real connection with others.”

            The article “Negative Effects of Technology on Communication” says that with the reduction of face to face communication, we lose important verbal cues and facial expressions that are important to conversation. There are also conflicting finds of people feeling more isolated. Reports say that someone who is introverted is likely to feel even more isolated with extensive use of social media. Someone who is extroverted feels less isolated through social networking.

            Since the T.V. became popular, getting people away from a screen has been a problem. Families lost communication and activity because they were sitting in front of a T.V. Now, the screen can go with us anywhere. We can walk with it, talk on it, and became continually distracted by it.

            A few years ago I attended the California Leadership Academy camp. We were taught how to communicate, which suggests that we didn’t already know how. It was in fact true. The director pointed out that people can talk through texting, but they cannot communicate. Communication requires active and concentrated listening and responding. We did an activity in which we partnered up and one person spoke, while the other sat straight, hands on laps, and was quiet. It made the speaker feel like they were really being listened to, and thus they were more comfortable opening up and speaking more.

            I challenge people to try this now. I think we make each other feel less important and significant when we stop looking at them to check our phones. This action socially signifies that we don’t care what they’re saying. We don’t care about the time we’re spending with them. If you are spending time with someone, then spend time with them.
Why would you rather talk to someone who didn’t make the time to physically be there with you?


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