Step away from the smartphone!
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A problem shared is a problem halved, right? So, you can imagine my annoyance when, halfway through my problem sharing, my friend casually whips out her mobile phone, and in between sympathetic nods, which have been cleverly timed to convey a false sense of active listening, shares a status update on Facebook. Now I know us girls are natural born multitaskers, but isn’t this just plain rude? Isn’t our generation’s use of technology bordering on the obsessive?
Case in point: Two weeks later I sit in the new LGBT bar ‘Wilde’ on Wicklow Street with another friend who decides to pick up his phone and read and respond to a text whilst we are in mid conversation. Needless to say, I find myself channeling Adam Sandler Anger Management style and taking some deep breaths, reminding myself that it’s just one text and urging that all too latent laid-back side to my personality to kick in. To quote Carrie Bradshaw: “BIG Mistake.”
Give a serial texter an inch and before you know it, 15 minutes and six texts later, you are starting to feel slightly tipsy, having hoovered up that second pint of Guinness out of pure boredom. Now, before I go on, I should add that in the past I have been known for this ‘Obsessive Use of Technology in a Social Setting.’
However, following a rollicking from a family member over my relentless texting during my niece’s birthday party last year (I was so distracted with perfecting my reply to my latest crush that I launched into ‘Happy Birthday’ five seconds too early), I have made a conscious effort to keep my mobile phone in my pocket when in the presence of other people. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for some for my friends!
So, what is it with our constant need to be engaged in virtual communication at all times? An alien visiting earth for the first time (okay a little out there but you get my drift...) could be forgiven for assuming that a mobile phone is part of the human anatomy!
If you google “addiction to technology” you will come across numerous articles documenting cases where people have found themselves unable to live without the internet or some other form of technology. In fact, in an online article in the Observer entitled ‘Addiction to Internet is an illness,’ Dr Jerald Block, an author of the respected American Journal of Psychiatry, argues that the disorder is so common that it merits inclusion in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Recently, I also read an article by Matt Richtel in the New York Times entitled ‘Silicon Valley Says Step Away from the Device’, which discusses concerns over the physical cravings that technology can evoke in its users. This article features a warning to log off every once in a while from the director of the executive offices of Facebook, Stuart Crabb.
However the potentially negative effects stemming from the overuse of technology are not just limited to our mental health. Technology is even ruining the mystery of the dating game. Whatever happened to making the effort to get to know somebody through a conversation, either on the night you cross paths or on a subsequent date?
Now, when we catch the attention of someone we like the look of on a night out, we are only content once we have elicited a Facebook username, lazy in the knowledge that the following morning we can add our potential romantic interest from the comfort of our sofa.
Then, with the touch of a keyboard or screen, we can find out everything that a good conversation could have easily produced. Isn’t the art of conversation in danger of being reduced to a virtual smiley face, followed by a Facebook poke?
Another problem with the overuse of technology when it comes to forming relationships is the probability of wires becoming crossed at some point. Texting is notorious for this. SMS messages don’t come with the intended tone of the sender.
Therefore, if you have recently met someone, say for example in a nightclub, and haven’t had much of a chance to speak with them, you may find yourself taking offence to one text out of maybe 20 that they send the following day, simply due to the fact that you didn’t take their meaning the correct way, unlike someone who is aware of their sense of humour.
Sadly, this could result in a big misunderstanding, more than likely putting a halt to the relationship before you have even seen the other person in daylight. Through experience, I have learnt that when it comes to texting, less is more, and that the more sent, the greater the chance of miscommunication.
Another problem that can arise from text messages is the differing level of importance that people attribute to them. For example, some people may be into texting 24/7 and feel that if a potential romantic interest does not reply within a timeframe that they themselves deem reasonable, it means that said romantic interest is not that interested or is just being downright rude!
Needless to say, the insecurity that text messages can evoke between people, in particular two individuals who have recently met, can lead to all forms of conflict and over analysis. For example, “She never puts a kiss at the end of her messages...she hates me, right?” LOL...
Don’t get me wrong, all forms of technology, including text messages, can have advantages. For example, if you are shy, texting provides a great means to flirt without having to worry that your crush will witness that cringing moment where your complexion starts to resemble Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies (Would he ever just COME OUT?!), while Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, in particular if we or they are living abroad. However, we all need to remember that friendships and relationships did flourish in the past without Facebook or Twitter, and that like everything in life, there is a time and a place for it.