iPhony Friends: “Smart” Phones Are Making You Socially Dumb

By Jordan Blackburn

Here’s a fun new game (or social experiment, depending on your point of view): count the number of people with smartphones in a crowd. At Tam, this won’t be too hard to do.

This diversion has become a hobby of mine; as one of the few Tam students whose parents have deemed smartphones an unnecessary luxury, I admit I play it a bit snidely. Still, the fact remains: smartphones are changing the way we interact with other people.

Sitting at the lab table in science no longer means idle small talk; as soon as my desk partners have completed their work, I’m left to sit in silence, staring at the back of four brightly-colored smartphone cases. I realize that if I had a smartphone, I would no longer be aware of this, but it’s strange to me that even among people I typically consider close acquaintances, if not friends, I have nobody to talk to.

It’s comforting to know that in the event of a meteor strike, I could run as opposed to taking an Instagram picture (#OMG #meteor #dinosaurs). People choose to check their email or other various social media sites rather than pay attention to their surroundings.

It’s hard not to feel left out when everybody is distracted by Instagram, especially when the coolest potential function of my phone is warding off rich hipsters. Trying to engage somebody engrossed in their smartphone is the social equivalent of repeatedly slamming your head into a wall. There are a few things as soul-crushing as realizing you’re not as interesting to someone as their iPhone.

Some teachers are even utilizing smartphones as teaching tools, meaning my lack of a smartphone is now affecting my school work. In French, we are allowed to look up translations while writing in class. In science, my classmates use the Internet on their phones to do research in order to complete worksheets.

This trend could present a problem. Students who can’t afford smartphones are at a disadvantage if this progresses. If having a smartphone becomes necessary to complete schoolwork, will the school have to start supplying them to students? Will other students have to share their personal technology? It’s possible that in the near future these questions will have to be addressed.

However much my social growth may be stunted by my lack of a smartphone, I still have to recognize that my need is not nearly so great as others’. At this point, I’m clinging to the feeble hope that less intelligent phones will come back into style.