Put The Damn Phone Down!
I have mixed emotions about my smartphone. It’s like sugar. I love it, but too much leads to tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. The smartphone is a dangerous tool. I’m not referring to texting and distracted driving, although that is responsible for almost 400,000 accidents and approximately 40,000 deaths per year. The phone is a vessel that has the potential to expose your most intimate secrets and alter the course of your life. For example, I have a friend who was married to a guy. Let's call him: “the most horrible human being on earth.” One night, HHB imbibed until the whiskey seeped through his pores and he passed out on a sofa, snoring away. HHB was always “working late,” and my girlfriend had her suspicions there may be some hanky-panky. She skillfully placed his finger on his “dumb” phone to unlock it and uncovered the evidence. Sexts, clandestine meetings and erotic photos of an aging porn-star with duck lips. Bad for him, good for her. Now she is free from her ex’s egotism and sex addiction, remarried, happier and richer. In addition to being perilous devices, smartphones contribute to our society being socially stunted and negatively affect authentic, healthy interactions. How many times have you been longing to catch up with a dear friend, and you finally get that chance to get together, and they can’t break away from their phone? In essence, your companion is saying that “tweet,” "like,” “TikTok,” or “text" is so much more fascinating than your conversation. Resentments build, and depending on the level of friendship, you cross that road. Do I summon my inner Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm and bitch at you to put your stupid phone down, you SCHMUCK. Or do I refrain and let the irritation stew? Sometimes there is an earnest attempt for a legitimate excuse. Other times it’s just flagrantly rude, bordering on addiction. You can see your comrade pining away for their phone like a druggie needing a fix. Social media “like addiction” is a thing. As my friend New Jersey Cindy sums it up, it’s like everyone acts like they are the CEO of GE or something. Put the damn phone down. It’s not that important. Communication is an art that builds solid, interactive relationships and determines whether your life will be happy. Frankly, kids today are lost. If someone is hypnotized by their phone, it sends a non-verbal cue that you are dull. Conversation is best when more than one person is participating. Someone talks and someone listens. Someone asks questions and someone answers. It can’t be one-sided. When the phone is the star, the quality of conversation is diminished; they don’t listen and so they are unable to answer your thoughtfully crafted questions. My 6-month-old puppy has more focus. Have you ever tried to watch an anticipated finale, and there is someone in the same room watching loud videos? Irksome. During our youth, we would chatter on that donut-shaped rotary phone for hours, while our entire household would fight for it. Today, the modern phone does not foster intimate relationship-building, and it’s a pity. Kids are too lazy to talk and too sluggish to leave a voicemail. They do not understand that there are some life circumstances that are better communicated in person. Quitting one’s job over text may burn a bridge that you may want to cross in the future. Their mailbox either isn't set up or it's full, because they never bother to check it. I need a millennial-language text translator to even understand all the abbreviated grammar and acronyms. Do you know what FTW, NBD, NSFW and BAE mean? Smartphones also hurt dating. Young couples don’t call. They text or tinder. They even break-up via text, which I guess is still more dignified than when Carrie Bradshaw was dumped by a post-it note. How are you supposed to learn to face life’s challenges when you can ghost someone with zero accountability? Therapists conclude that phones are paving the way to teen confusion, anxiety and depression. If you want your child to Gollum out on you, just take away “precious” the smartphone. It is the worst punishment for them. My guess is they would prefer a 1970s-style spanking over getting their electronics taken away for a week, although your kid may call child protective services if you choose that route. Sometimes tough love is necessary. How many vacations are more delightful because a parent laid down the law and made it a “no-tech zone,” so the family could really talk to one another. We need to return to the moment, recenter and be present, because we will never have that time back. This pandemic has taught me to relish life’s simple pleasures and treasure pre-virus memories in a soulful way. Events that I unintentionally took for granted -- the parties, the hugs, karaoke, travel, going to the movies and restaurants -- are more significant than ever. Perhaps that’s my logic for being impatient with technology. Since we do not know what tomorrow brings, the here and now is more important than ever.