Smart phones: brief and impersonal


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There is no question that we have never been more dependent on our cell phones. I recently left my phone at a restaurant and the moment I realized I had left it behind — which was no more than a few minutes after I left the place — I had a small panic attack.

The thought of losing my phone was horrifying. Most of our daily communication and scheduling (personal and professional) is done through the little gizmo. The fact that this inanimate object has become such an indispensable tool makes me uneasy. Cell phones have become such integral parts of our lives that it is difficult to remember life without them. And yet, I wonder if we are truly better off with this technological appendage?

Undoubtedly, the speed of communication has progressed by leaps and bounds. From pagers to the first incarnation of cell phones (that looked more like cobblestone bricks than communication devices) to the Smartphones of today, getting in touch has never been easier. While I don’t question the speed and accessibility of these gadgets, I wonder what it has done to our interpersonal exchanges as people?

Today’s phones have definitely changed the mode in which we communicate with one another. Much of our dialogue has pathetically degenerated to brief acronyms describing the most mundane of activities.

Are we compromising the very essence of our humanity every time we text in lieu of a face-to-face conversation or an old-fashioned telephone chat? I suggest we are to an extent. Maybe it’s not as drastic as the complete breakdown of mankind’s civility but there is certainly little question that the radical shift in the way we communicate has irrevocably modified the way we relate to one another.

Smack dab in the middle of the gilded age of technology we text and Skype our ways through our busy lives. Along the way we’ve all adopted the culture of the brief and impersonal mode of communication. Emoticons (the facial expressions transmitted in text messaging by making a smiley or sad face by grouping colons and parenthesis) have replaced handshakes and hugs.

Alarmingly, the Smartphone industry seems to be exclusively catering to the needs of teens.

Most of the applications (or “apps” as they are called) on your phone are games, instant messaging tools or music storage functions. The sleek, playful design of the apparatuses themselves make them attractive if you’re a high-schooler who is planning on slipping your phone into the pocket of your tight jeans when cruising the mall with friends. However, texting an important message on a small touch screen phone is quite the formidable task — at least it is if your fingers are as clunky and clumsy as mine.

Not to mention the fact that to many Miamians, smartphones are not multi-culturally sensitive. I never realized how great a role Spanglish played in my everyday communications until I suffered through the auto correct of my bilingual texts on my smart phone. For many of us, who live on the cultural divide that defines us as hyphenated Americans, keeping the text setting on one language does not suit our special needs.

Not only are the phones not configured for adults but the stores where they are sold can be quite off-putting for tech-challenged commoners like myself. Unless you are a 13-year-old techie who has invested an inordinate amount of time reading up on the latest features offered by the competing brands, you will generally be sold a phone with very little support or instruction as to how to use the mini computer you’ve just purchased.

Years ago, I remember listening to a wise old timer referring to the advent and development of television. He sadly declared, “I’ve never seen something so good, go bad so fast.”

In light of my disdain for the evolution of the cell phone, his statement rings loud and clear.

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