During the world’s longest weekend, it became clear to me that, when I’m using my phone or surfing the Internet, I am almost always learning something. I’m using Google to find out what types of plastic bottles are the worst for human health, or determining the home town of a certain actor, or looking up some N.B.A. player’s college stats. I’m trying to find out how many people work at Tesla, or getting the address for that brunch place, or checking out how in the world Sacramento came to be the capital of California.
People that know me will constantly see me on my phone, but very rarely is it out for checking social media. I’m constantly reading and learning on it and on my other technological devices. In the past it was books, magazines, and newsletters, today its my phone and my computer. Is this an issue? I don’t feel like it is, because if I had to go offline, I would just switch to what I used before.
Is our technology making us anti-social? There are arguments that it is. Stop Sharing This Photo of Antisocial Newspaper Readers
It should go without saying, but people keep sharing this image, so I’ll belabor the point: Newspapers are a fundamentally different medium than cell phones. Let us count the ways:
No one at a table ever reached into their front pocket to pull out a newspaper while you were talking to them.
Newspapers never vibrated or chimed to get your attention (and no, that waif on the corner shouting “Extra! Extra!” doesn’t count).
There’s a finite end point to reading a newspaper, and it usually took no longer than 45 minutes to get there.
And that, I believe is the difference. I’ve set up my phone to silence notifications as much as possible. Only a few events will actually make a sound. Spark does a fantastic job of only notifying me of important emails. I’m not going to pull out my phone to reply to a text or a tweet if I’m in the middle of conversation. When I’m out with friends or colleagues, I limit my phone use as much as possible. I like to learn, and they are a resource that is very time limited and precious. RSS feeds and Twitter can wait.
Etiquette with technology is still in its infancy. Adults are learning what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate with technology at the same time as students. Each of us bring our own biases to the table. I find it rude to interrupt a conversation when the phone rings, while others find it rude when I send their call to voicemail because I’m in the middle of a conversation. Sorry, but the people I’m currently are with is more important than a phone call. Scratch the sorry, I’m not sorry. In the past we didn’t have answering machines, and so each phone call was important because if you missed it, there was no recording. Nowadays everyone has voicemail. The calls can wait.
But then again, voice mail is on its way out…