My students think it’s hilarious that my ancient phone is a flip-top. I get the feeling they wouldn’t be surprised if I pulled out a Smith Corona typewriter from my book bag. Clearly, I’m a strange visitor from another planet… or maybe a time traveler who hasn’t yet figured out the ways of the 21st century.
I readily admit I’m a technophobe, a non-digital native stuck in my own time warp. But part of my ambivalence about upgrading my phone has to do with my concerns about how addictive they appear to be.
It isn’t just my interactions with my college students who struggle to get through 75 minutes of class without peeking at their phones. When my grand-daughter started kindergarten and I was in charge of picking her up, I was not only excited to have time with her but looked forward to getting to know some of the other parents and grandparents waiting in the hallway to pick up their little ones. There was just one problem—they were all buried in their phones.
And when I’ve team-taught sexuality workshops for youth, the minute I’ve been up to bat in leading a segment of the session, it’s not uncommon for the other adult facilitators to pull out their phones and “check out” from whatever we’re doing. My teeth grind every time I think about what kind of a message this sends to our youth participants, but hey, these are volunteers.
The other day, I had lunch with a dear friend to celebrate her birthday. Both of our lives have been crazy, and I hadn’t seen her for months. We sat there for more than two hours, enjoying the ambiance of the European style café and the pleasure of catching up with one another. As we were getting up to leave, I glanced over at the attractive young couple seated at the next table. They weren’t talking to one another, nor even making eye contact. They were engrossed in their respective phones. Here they were in this lovely café at a table for two, and they might as well have been at home alone with their phones.
Perhaps they were having meaningful dialogue with others in cyberspace. But somehow, I can’t help but think our addiction to our phones puts us at risk for missing out on being fully present for the folks we’re with.
On the other hand, there is the lure of all the wonderful things you can do with one of these amazing gadgets. I watch my beautiful daughter-in-law do everything on her phone, from ordering take-out on her restaurant app to shopping for diapers. And then there’s that real draw for me—the lure of FaceTime with my grandkids.
Yup, I’ll probably break down soon and invest in a fancy phone with lots of bells and whistles.
But so help me—if I can’t make it through a face-to-face conversation with another human being without glancing at my phone—well, just shoot me.