Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smart Phones and Human Community

I do not own a smart phone.  My reasons for this are varied.  Cost is one.  Stubbornness is another.  But the main reason has to do with community.  This afternoon, I was in a coffee shop.  I looked at the patrons around me, and nearly all of them, young and old alike, were stooped over their smart phones--texting, tweeting, instagramming away, seemingly unconcerned with the real world, and real people, surrounding them.  Not having a smart phone, I am compelled to observe and deal with the real world around me.  

I feel smart phones give us the illusion of connectedness and community, while actually distancing us from one another.  I feel smart phones have taken pre-existing American tendencies (isolation and xenophobia) and have enhanced them exponentially, under the guise of interconnectedness.  Because of this phenomenon, I prefer not to get a smart phone.  

I prefer to involve myself in my actual, physical community--the real people I encounter every day.  Because I am not constantly stooped over a smart phone (actually, I never am), I am free to really see and be present in my actual community, which is Downtown Fullerton.  I chat with a few local homeless people.  I wave to a student riding past on her skateboard.  I have countless little interactions like this, every day, that make me feel a part of something real, not virtual.

Technology has great benefits, of course.  Smart phones do not necessarily disrupt real human connection.  I suppose the best thing to do is for each person to evaluate the role of smart phones in our lives, and judge for ourselves if they disrupt, or enhance, our experience of real human community.  For me, the disruption is too great a price to pay.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work Jesse. I’ve always been slightly concerned with technology as well. Heidegger wrote a great essay on, albeit it is dated in some ways. What I find interesting about smartphones, or any of the contemporary social media that exists (because that’s what smartphones are really all about), is that they mediate interpersonal connections by allocating for controlling the encounter. One can CHOOSE what/when to react via a technological apparatus. However, that very apparatus does change its viewer significantly. There is a great little book by Giorgio Agamben called “What is an Apparatus?” and his tackles the cell phone at one point. It’s miraculous.