I saw this article on Yahoo Monday about a TED talk Sergey Brin gave last week, where he discussed the ways that he finds his smart phone “emasculating.” I don’t have a strong opinion on that topic, but it’s also partly because I don’t have a smart phone. I’m not really a luddite as much as I am true to the Swiss, German and Scottish parts of my ancestry in my frugality and my reluctance to adopt the latest fads, especially when those fads come with a monthly fee I’d rather not have to pay.
I only have a rather primitive cell phone, and I rarely use it very often. I remember back around 2000 watching the Oprah show one day when Oprah confessed she didn’t have a cell phone, and she couldn’t understand why people needed to be available that way at all times and in all places. While I’m sure Oprah has relented and gotten not just a cell phone but a smart phone by now, I still remember her remark in resisting that particular technology.
But while I might not have a smart phone, most of the other folks I know or encounter have one. And that brings me around to my topic of the moment. I’m less worried about whether or not smart phones are “emasculating” than I am about their tendency to make people more self-absorbed, oblivious, and frankly rude.
I’m appalled at work when I see people checking their smartphones during meetings, but I see it all the time. And then there is the matter of the folks who text (or play “Angry Birds”) while walking or crossing the street or, worse, while driving.
My particular gripe at the moment is something that I see more and more frequently when I fly these days, and that is people who flout the rule against using their cell phones during flight. Maybe it is an unnecessary rule, but it is still a rule, and ostensibly a rule put in place for everyone’s safety. Nevertheless, I’ve witnessed people within my line of sight who don’t turn off their phones when instructed, or who furtively turn them on in mid-flight to start texting or checking e-mails (and I’m not talking about a flight with wi-fi), or who hide them away only to have them ring during flight. On one of my most recent flights, a phone rang and a guy took the call and started talking as we were going into the final descent before landing. I’m not a frequent flyer, so if I’ve witnessed all of these things, I can’t be the only one.
Maybe I’m just being a grouch, but it seems to me that the advances in communications technology have desensitized many people (and not just the Alec Baldwins of the world) to the demands of common courtesy and common sense.