Picture the scene – a grinning twenty something surreptitiously playing a Snapchat video on their phone on the train, while a 50 something man cuts to a bemused glare, his morning Metro a mere masquerade for Monday misery and apathy. A middle aged lady sits stony faced engrossed in her Kindle, trying desperately to avoid any glimmer of eye contact or hint of human interaction. Many of us have been there. This is the world we live in.
So called ‘social media’ – instead of bringing us together, is driving us apart. Devices that are specifically designed to enable social interaction are rarely, it seems, used to actually talk on the phone. According to a recent Metro article, the average smartphone user glances at their screen 60 times a day, largely just to self indulgently check the influx of ‘likes’ gained from a selfie or an Instagram post of their advocado on toast.
We suffer from a severe strain of phonophobia – we are allergic to talking to someone on the phone, instead messaging each other incessantly under the impression we are doing our mental health a favour. We are far more interested in texting, or ‘tagging’ friends in posts, or fishing for ‘likes’ on Instagram and Facebook. This click- bait culture is consuming our lives, and we seem as happy as the proverbial pig to roll around in this world of our own self produced excrement, regardless of its lasting fulfilment.
Recent research suggests that excessive smartphone use doesn’t just hinder actual face to face conversation. The effects of radiation caused by smartphones could be a genuine health threat. A report in ‘The Independent’ this week highlights a warning issued by the California Department of Health, which found ‘mounting evidence that smartphone use could be linked to a string of health concerns including cancer, poor mental health and reproductive issues’.
Furthermore, the report issues a series of practical guidelines including sleeping away from your phone to potentially avoid such effects. Strikingly, smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, testify to these concerns, with Apple going so far as to including an RF (radiofrequency) notice in the IPhone 7’s phone settings.
The phrase ‘It’s not good to talk’ should be plastered all over the walls of trains, tubes and buses across the country; it may as well be whacked on our foreheads. This is the curt message we are silently screaming as our eyes dart sceptically to one another’s and then sharply back to our screens in our laps. Soon enough over cautious commuters, when given a smile or an apologetic ‘excuse me’, will rush to the authorities when they hear the announcement: ‘See something that doesn’t look right? See it, say it, sort it’. Have we just become too afraid to talk to each other because we have become so accustomed to hiding behind our screens, and too lazy to even mildly engage? Sadly my suspicion is so. Such is the smartphone addiction engulfing us all. A mutual silence will in the end become truly deafening – and will be the death of society.
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