Unless you’re reading this on a computer, there is a very good chance that many people around you are currently doing exactly the same thing; looking at their mobile phones. Such is the nature of today’s society that we all spend an increasing amount of time gazing at the screen on our phone or tablet and less time engaging with people face to face. In fact, some people spend so much time absorbed in their portable, virtual world that they can begin to panic if they become separated from it. Scientists have even given this a name apparently - Nomophobia, the fear of not having your mobile phone within reach and charged, ready for use.
On the face of it, this is a very bad thing. Spending time ignoring the person next to you and concentrating instead on a tiny sliver of electronics must be harmful to society, mustn’t it? But I find myself wondering if it is really a bad thing or just a change. What are we actually doing on the phone and is it harmful?
I find it very hard to give a single answer to these questions. On the one hand, direct interaction has definitely reduced, but on the other we now have instant access to people all over the world. This of course is the dichotomy of modern communication: We are in constant contact with all of our friends wherever we are and whatever we are doing and yet we actually talk to them less.
The answer to “what are we doing” is almost impossible to answer. Each of us is doing something different: reading, interacting on social media, chatting to a friend or simply looking up the next train. Some of us even write on our phones in some very random locations - I once wrote a particularly steamy story on a ferry while the person next to me read a book. One thing we are all doing is escaping the present situation. Whether we are disappearing into the fantasy world created by our favourite author or simply catching up on the gossip with a friend, we are all using our phone as a portal to where we would like to be. In many ways it means you never have to be lonely anymore. Even if you suffer the ignominy of the dreaded “table for one”, good company is never far away. That has to be a good thing.
However there is a downside to this always connected mentality. It can be very hard to stop and actually listen to the person beside you. How often have you been sat beside someone, trying to hold a conversation only to find them not paying attention because they are gazing longingly at their phone or caressing its screen? Annoying, isn’t it? I would like to suggest that we should all make a conscious effort to occasionally put our phones away and actually pay attention to one person, the one nearest you would be a good start.
Here's a link to the original post. I highly recommend visiting the VoElla site as it has some excellent material on it.