'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

Summary: I'm forgetting how to use my vocal chords. Thanks, smartphone. Thanks, tablet.


This Christmas started like any other.

The bone-chilling cold of London in December could not be assuaged by multiple layers of socks and embarrassingly over-sized sweaters that would never see the light of day outside. The sky at 8 am is pitch-black.

Anyway, it's Christmas, and there's the required excuse to crack open the champagne so early in the morning.

The usual drivel on British television that's been repeated since the 1960's buzzes in the background, full of inanely grinning children and men in red suits, punctuated by the occasional politically incorrect joke that television producers now wouldn't be able to get away with.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

My mother leaps up in a panic and flies to the kitchen. Furiously, she scrambles to grab her smartphone out of an enormous 'Mary Poppins' handbag. Then, she vanishes in to the conservatory -- breakfast and not-so-guilty champagne consumption forgotten -- to shriek at a work underling.

Then, a new ringtone pierces the air.

"Aleksandr here announces that you are having a message. Simples."

(As a bonus for the American crowd, Aleksandr the Meerkat is an advertising phenomenon in the U.K. For those of us stuck listening to the subsequent ringtones on a daily basis, it has lost some of its novelty.)

Eyes down, her partner becomes absorbed by the latest joke no doubt originally written by someone employed by the mobile network to promote texting among their unwitting customers. He guffaws, the mother unit returned to the sitting room looking irritated, and conversation picked up again.

Instead of the previous discussion concerning Boxing Day plans, it now switched to moaning over the useless technology system at work and punctuated by growls concerning the overloaded mobile network. Conversation forgotten, eventually everyone's eyes slid over to the television.

Now, technology is a wonderful thing. We can access information instantaneously, use it in times of crisis, and medical breakthroughs save lives. The IT industry creates jobs, and for students, online access to resources can make studying less stressful and time-consuming.

If you don't consider the occasions that GPS systems send our vehicles in to ditches or down one-way roads in the wrong direction -- I shudder at the memory -- generally technology can make life easier in respects.

But, as Christmas morning emphasized, we are incredibly reliant on it. Perhaps even some of us are addicted? In the 'month of good cheer' and 'time for the family', we still stand to attention the moment a beep summons us. It's like we're obedient dogs responding to a whistle.

The suspense is a killer. Who text me? Was it important? I have to know. Now.

The moment the phone goes off, our attention is taken away from the present world and we become absorbed with the gadget in our hands. Conversations may resume, but they lose focus and can become awkward. Instead of dealing with the situation at hand, our social skills become immersed in the digital world.

We talk to people at a distance, rather than the ones looking at us expectantly across the table, blissfully unaware that we didn't hear the question.

There's the clincher. Instead of choosing not to listen, we didn't hear it in the first place. Someone posted a new LOLcat on Facebook and I got distracted, sorry.

We even use our gadgets to run from social situations -- citing an urgent need to call someone, or that email that 'can't wait, and must be answered now'.

On saying that, I do admit to faking a call in order to escape an awkward moment in the obligatory, annual drunken family clan gathering. It can be a useful tool, and there's even an app for it.

Being accustomed to having such technology within our grasp has meant that time allocations have changed. Instead of running down the gym or playing football, perhaps more of that time is spent tweeting, on Facebook, or checking the work email 'just to stay on top of things'. We're worried that if we leave the digital environment for an instant, something will go wrong, or something incredibly important will be missed.

With the emergence of smartphones and tablets, do we ever truly 'turn off'?


Topics: Smartphones, Android, IT Employment, Tablets, Security, Mobile OS, iPad, Hardware, Apps, United Kingdom

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  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    I hate smartphones, and I have several.

    I've taken to setting e-mail to be collected once an hour, outside of business hours and the phone is set to silent, when I'm at home and, unless I am on call, I don't look at the thing during the evening, although I usually check it just before going to bed, before putting it in Flight mode.
  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    Right, because it obviously has everything to do with the technology and not the people.

    You know what my coworkers were saying before the Holidays? "I want them to be over". Because Family sucks.
  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    yep, clearly you want to blame your devices for you complete and utter lack of desire to interact with any humans in person. Yep, it's the devices fault lol
  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    Didn't see the word boyfriend in the article either. HHHHHhhmmmmmmmmm.
  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    I think eventually, very soon, we will only use our voice to initiate the phrase... "there's an app for that" to handle all of our spiritual, relational, physical, financial, and mental needs. lol; rotfl; smh; :-)
  • I think I prefer your cell phone to you, too.

  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    Good article. Glad to see what's hopefully the beginning of a slow slide back to reality. We're still in the honeymoon phase of all this networking and being wired together...it's still got some novelty so we're branching out and connecting willy-nilly. It's far too much and we need to get a grip on it, especially younger people.<br><br>I think it'll happen, just slowly, but eventually we'll realize that the constant interruptions are sapping away a lot of the good things in life, not to mention our attention spans and the benefits of really concentrating or getting lost in something, like a great movie or creating a work of art. With the potential to be interrupted at any moment (even if you don't answer it, you're still interrupted if your phone is on), our attention is divided. Not a bad thing sometimes, and absolutely necessary at other times, but most of the time...totally unnecessary. It's insidious how this has creeped up and is taking over so much of our days...time to take a deep breath and a step back!
  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    Put the phone down. Walk away from the phone now. Now take a walk, smile at people, and say hello - good day! See, it will all come back to ya :) Separation from electronic devices can be a wonderful experience. A true holiday is when you leave it all behind, and only touch people, or perhaps your steering wheel as you speed away. Turn off the TV, computer, slate, phone and join the reality which is the real world of sight, smell and feel. My phone works well for talking to others, and I see no need for the rest. If I was working, then yes a Smart Phone is great - I do get it as it is a tool.
  • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

    [i]I???m forgetting how to use my vocal chords.[/i]

    Sooo, does that mean the next generation will be deaf & dumb?

    • RE: 'Why I prefer my smartphone to you.'

      @ScorpioBlue It appears they will certainly be dumb, maybe even dumber.
  • "Bonechilling cold of London"

    Thanks for the laugh. London's "bonechilling cold" is what most of the rest of the world calls "a pretty nice late spring day".

    Call me when it's -35C.