Monday, October 31, 2011

Cellphones: Helping You Avoid Eye Contact with Strangers!

I've been absent from the school scene for a few years prior to this current re-engagement with academia, and in that time technology has shifted radically. Especially in the mobile/cellphone department. This, in large part, was due to the iPhone's release in mid-2007... the summer before my senior year of college.

There are a lot of ways which this has changed my recent school experience: I use a Kindle app on Android/PC for most of my textbooks, when taking pictures I use my phone and not a dedicated camera, instead of lugging a seperate portable gaming system around for the freetime in-between classes and meetings I just use my phone, and perhaps most importantly, it's where I keep short notes, to-do lists, homework assignments, and contact information.

But this is more about another thing that comes along with the school experience: social interaction. And in my experience, technology is really starting to impede upon it.

When I'm walking down a hallway and someone is coming towards me, whether I know them or not, I typically do something to greet them; a nod and a smile, a friendly "how are you," a quick "hello." And among the professors and older students, this seems to be pretty standard; and in most cases, if you don't initiate the greeting, they generally will. But among my peers and the younger group of students, it has become completely foreign because they either have their phone out and are walking like zombies, or sense an awkward exchange and pull their phone out to act busy/distracted while walking by.

In the cafeteria, it's pretty much the same. People sit alone or in herds of others with their laptops, phones, or tablets out, acting like they're busy, or, perhaps, being busy, instead of getting to know the people around them.

In the hallways, students sit cross-legged with their laptops or phones occupying them. In the lobbies almost everyone has something out or headphones in. And even in the outside area's it's not uncommon to see technology absorbing everyone's attention (although, with the cold there aren't many outside these days).

Now, I'm not saying that I don't use technology... because I do. Hell, some of my best-friends are people I've never met in real life. But it just seems strange that college, which was such a super-social place for me just a few years ago, seems so disjointed and singular now.

Perhaps its that this is a community college and most of the population is made up of non-traditional students and commuters. But that's why I'm writing this. If you're at school, do you see technology taking up time that could be used to socialize and get to know each other? Or is this happening in workplaces and other sorts of places in the world as well?

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