July 10, 2010

Are Smart Phones the New Cigarette?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:27 pm by R

Both are socially pervasive and signs of the times. One we know will cause cancer, the other — well, some people are looking into it. Have smart phones become the new cigarette?

I’m a little late to the party, but I just started watching Mad Men (I know, I know).  And I can’t help but notice how often and how deliberately — even strategically — the cast seems to whip out a cigarette.

During awkward turns of phrase…

As an excuse to glance down when someone you don’t wish to speak with walks by…

Out of sheer nervousness…

As I watched, I realized that worst of the bad habits cigarettes instilled in the American culture was not its stinking, carcinogenic stench, but rather the convenient and dismissive excuse to avoid interaction with other people.

Somehow, watching this show there still remains a certain debonair quality to smoking a cigarette. Maybe it’s the elegance all those things of times-gone-by manage to maintain — well, most things anyway.

Smart Phones…not so much. There’s nothing really classy about unabashedly staring down into a glowing LCD screen as someone you love tries to tell you about their day. Nor is there anything glamorous about being hunched over a handset to update your status in public.

But the reality is we depend on smart phones. They are the life lines to our bank balances, Twitter feeds, myriad apps and other conveniences that actually allow us to connect. But by the same token, they are an addiction. We feel jittery without them in much the same way one trying to lay off cigarettes does when they’re really jonesing for a smoke.

It’s as much a physical addiction as it is a psychological one. The weight of the handset in our palms has an odd comfort about it. We are deeply connected. I don’t know about you, but I can sense my blackberry buzzing before it does so, in the same way that I’m often able to anticipate what my darling husband might say before the words leave his lips. (Creepy that I just used that comparison actually…)

But there’s no elegance to the whole smart phone obsession. Are they necessary for everyday life?…in my world, heck yes. Is there any grace in these marvels of technology? If you’re into the whole “beautiful code” movement, probably. But there’s more hazard than harmony when it comes to our relationships with smart phones.

Our text happy thumbs have lead to tragic accidents. People have lost their lives paying more attention to the next BBM coming in than the road they’re driving on. We are down right callous to one another, giving more doting attention to these tiny computers than to the ones we love. There are even surgeries for those who have contracted injuries from physical overuse!

And if someone adds to the pile conclusive evidence that there’s neural damage or carcinogenic impact from our addictive use of smart phones whatever will we do? What substitute will suffice? How will we connect with one another? What will happen when something awkward happens and there’s no smart phone to turn to? Will we be forced to face down the ex-boyfriend, work foe or other nemesis headed our way down the street?

God help us if we have to interact with one another with no distractions in our hands, cigarettes, smart phones, stuffed animals, whatever.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I sense that my Blackberry is about to ring…