A smartphone age: Connecting with others through the Internet
Though it doesn’t seem like much compared to what we have today, what is now considered to be the first smart phone turned twenty on Aug. 16. According to BBC News, the IBM Simon, which came out in 1994, was the first cell phone to offer computing features like a calendar, note taking and email.
Now, according to The Pew Research Center, 58 percent of American adults own a smartphone. Moreover, the Washington Post recently reported that the number of “smartphone addicts” — classified as people who open apps 60 times or more a day — is on the rise, based on a report by Flurry Analytics.
In the wake of these concerns, a recent YouTube video uploaded by Gary Turk about the problems of social media, entitled “Look Up,” went viral and currently has over 45 million views on YouTube. The video is in the form of a spoken word poem that encourages people to look up from their smart phones and other devices and engage in the so-called real world.
“We’re a generation of idiots, smartphones and dumb people, so look up from your phone, shut down that display, take in your surroundings and make the most of today,” Turk said in the video. “Just one real connection is all it can take, to show you the difference that being there can make.”
The video also includes a montage of a man asking a woman on the street for directions and their subsequent relationship and life together, all of which would never have happened if he just searched for directions on his smartphone. Though this type of romantic comedy “meet-cute” may be becoming a thing of the past, that does not mean technology has killed romance or social interaction.
On the contrary, dating websites and apps like eHarmony, OkCupid or Tinder create even more opportunities to find a partner. Increasingly popular apps like Couple and Avocado make it possible for couples to stay close even when they are physically apart.
Modern technology, like the Internet and smartphones, brings us closer and makes the world smaller than ever. If anything, the Internet has given new life to social interaction and communication.
Computer science graduate student Arthur Dunbar said he believes that though social interactions online are different that what we are used to, that does not make them less valuable.
“It’s just different less than bad,” Dunbar said. “Every change comes with people used to the other way of doing it, telling young people how terrible their new way of doing it is.”
The Independent described the video as “life-changing” in its efforts to make watchers rethink their dependence on technology, while recognizing the irony of a video decrying social media and technology going viral through that very same platform.
Technology itself is the life-changer, however. Nutrition senior Kathy Hsieh said she thinks that the convenience and efficiency of communication that the Internet and new technology have brought is greater than their disadvantages.
“It depends on what aspect of technology you’re looking at, but I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons,” Hsieh said.
“Loneliness is not in the global community. If there’s a commonality you just can’t see, look a little harder, because we all want the same things: a day a bit brighter and friends who amaze us, a world full of beauty and laughter on a daily basis.”
-Jarret, Murderbot Productions
Since the spread of “Look Up,” many people have made video responses and parodies celebrating smartphones and the benefits they have brought and arguing in favor of looking down. In his YouTube video response, Jarret of Murderbot Productions revels in the ability to instantly share and connect with people and their experiences all over the world with the help of smartphones.
“Maybe it’s just popular to attack the smartphones for making us dumb, not our own personal lack of discernment, or taste, or presence, or thought, or moderation, or interest, or taut heartstrings just waiting to be plucked by the beauty daily by the family you have tucked in the back pocket of your jeans on Gorilla Glass screens,” Jarret said in the poem. “Loneliness is not in the global community. If there’s a commonality you just can’t see, look a little harder, because we all want the same things: a day a bit brighter and friends who amaze us, a world full of beauty and laughter on a daily basis.”
Though Hsieh said she mostly agrees with the picture of society painted in “Look Up” and its message, she thinks moderation is most important.
“(The video) is pretty accurate, but sometimes you just have to let it go.” Hsieh said. “(Just) don’t always be on your phone the majority of the time.”
It is important for individuals to find a balance. One can lose the very same job or relationship one found with the help of the Internet by spending too much time on their smartphone at work or on a date. Modern jobs and relationships are already incorporating smartphones and the instant connection they provide into everyday life. Being able to work together in real time with far away co-workers or instantly accessing a heartwarming picture, video or idea to share with each other on a date are all benefits of the smartphone era.
Claims that technology is ruining society are often sensationalized and pointless. Technology is a permanent part of the world we live in and it will only become a greater and more helpful part of our lives. We can either accept and even celebrate these changes or fight them and be constantly annoyed by realities of the world around us.
Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected].