lifestyle

Enough already: Selfies won't destroy social order and smart phone shaming needs to stop.

 

I’m going to show you a video. A video that will make you want to put down your phone, dance on the swiss alps, reconnect with loved ones and experience what life is REALLY about. A video that tells you social media is not the answer and that smartphones are the root of all evil in the world. A video like this. Or this. Or a story like this. Or this:

But you know what all these videos have in common? They’re kind of bullshit.

And it’s high time we all said that out loud.

The smartphone-shaming contingent of the internet, sharing their anti-Facebook diatribes on Facebook, would have you believe that real-time human interaction doesn’t exist anymore. That they haven’t talked to one of their friends face-to-face in over three years. That Siri is everyone’s closest friend.

None of this is true.

Here are 5 reasons we need to stop smartphone, social media and technology shaming:

1. We are more connected than ever before – not less connected.

I know that people like to claim otherwise. I guarantee that every article about smartphone shaming, ever, has featured the line: “We are more connected than ever before, but some of us still feel less connected”. Heck, I’ve written words to that effect.

But you know what? Now on Mother’s Day, children scattered all over the globe can simultaneously Skype their mum for a virtual family reunion. People can more easily maintain interstate friendships, and long-distance romance has got a whole lot easier. Mums can still connect with their social groups, even if they have to be at home most nights.

When people use social media and smartphones the right way, it’s actually kind of beautiful.

2. Selfies are not destroying our social order.

Look, underage teens sexting = probably a little dangerous. But people taking a selfie because they think their hair looks particularly nice that day? Or taking a photo of a beautiful sunrise on their morning run? Or taking group shots replete with semi-duck face while at a bar for a birthday party? It’s not hurting anybody.

One of my favourite activities as a kid, was to go through my parents’ old photo albums and look at what their life was like. One of my favourite activities now is to scroll through Facebook albums of photos my friends have taken while travelling overseas, in locations I may never get to visit or experience for myself. I like being able to see the world through someone else’s eyes for a moment, or be kept up-to-date on what they’re reading/knitting/eating on Instagram. Speaking of…

3. People taking photos of their food is not actually destroying your day.

It’s just not.

4. Knowledge is now (pretty much) free.

My mother had to write her honour’s thesis on a typewriter, and was limited to the books at her university library. During my tertiary education, I’ve had the world’s knowledge at my fingertips. That’s truly amazing.

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Beyond the fact that I’m glad Wikipedia existed while I was cramming for exams, it’s also worth acknowledging that the world’s news is now more available to us than ever before. In the past, it seems unlikely that the news of Nigeria’s stolen girls would have reached us – and if it had, there is no way the story would have been able to generate the same level of support as it did through social media. Similarly, thanks to that cursed internet, we can not only learn about cases like Cecily McMillan’s – but we can support her.

It’s corny, but the internet can make your world bigger – not smaller – if you let it.

5. We aren’t going to suddenly start making best friends on the bus, if we put our phones away.

In the real world, most people do use their smartphones responsibly. They do have real-life human interactions, conversations, and catch-ups. So the smartphone shamers’ last defence is often the appalling state of how many people use their phones while on public transport.

“Look at the people sitting next to each other on the train,” they cry, “Looking at their screens instead of interacting with the random strangers human beings around them!”

Want to hear a story about talking to strangers on public transport? One time, when I was 14, my friends and I struck up a conversation with a nice-seeming boy sitting at the back of the bus. Halfway through our conversation, he pulled A KNIFE out of his school-bag and proceeded to STAB THE BUS SEATS IN A THREATENING MANNER. Moral of the story: give your kids a smartphone and keep them safe.

I actually don’t use my phone that much when catching the bus home, at the end of a long day. I like to look out the window, watch the world go by, and unwind. Sometimes someone sitting next to me will be using their phone, and when they get to their stop, they usually still shoot me a smile as they get off. I’m really so okay with that level of interaction. I don’t need to make a new best friend, when I’m exhausted and just want to get home.

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Obviously it’s possible to have an unhealthy relationship with a smartphone. It’s possible to have an unhealthy relationship with anything. Television, porn, cheese (I fully own that last one). But most people DON’T have an unhealthy smartphone relationship. Something only becomes unhealthy, if it’s making your life worse.

If it is making your life worse, by all means, stop using your smartphone. But let others message their overseas friends, google a news story about the situation in South Sudan, or take a photo of their brunch in peace.

Do you think smartphone use is out of control? Or do most of the people you know use their smartphone responsibly?