Technology leads to un-friending of the real world

Tacoma News TribuneJune 27, 2014 

Body language is key in the art of communication. Nonverbal signals identify what emotion the person in front of us is feeling: the look on their face, the way they sit, what their hands are doing and what their eyes are fixed on.

Face-to-face exchanges are hard to come by these days because most of the time face to face means face to Facebook. Face to Instagram. Face to Twitter.

When I walk into a classroom and settle in, the first thing I do is pull out my phone. It’s that awkward silence I don’t like, so I cover it up with a phone in my face, with statuses I’ve already read, with an Instagram I’ve already “liked.” There may not be anything gossip-worthy or jaw-dropping on social media, but my phone is my security blanket that gets me through.

I know I’m not the only one because when I look up, I see a sea of lights shining off of 15 other phones.

It’s not just in awkward silence that the screens come out. We also have to tell the world when we are having a good time. We filter and edit a photo that shows that cup of coffee we are drinking, that really awesome concert, the beautiful view of a finished hike or a “selfie” — just because.

While moments like these may be memorable, perhaps your “friend” from high school that you’ve talked to one time in your life doesn’t need to know. Maybe there’s value in taking it in for yourself or keeping a special moment between you and your friend.

But why do we feel the need to document special moments all the time? And are we really truly enjoying our time with an invention glued to our hands?

“Look Up” is a video by Gary Turk that went viral (www.google.com/#q=look+up). It testifies to the plight that our generation has ignored: “So when you’re in public, and you start to feel alone, put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone! You don’t need to stare at your menu, or at your contact list. Just talk to one another, learn to coexist.”

I’d like to think that I have self-control over the little square device in my pocket, but more often than not I wonder if it has control over me. Because whether it’s out of habit or curiosity, there’s just something about that phone that pulls me in.

Real life is messy. It includes awkward silences and unedited moments. Wanderlust isn’t a thing to be hash-tagged, and it won’t be achieved in 140 characters. Go out and live life, but first let’s put down our phones.

Joanna Sappenfield is a student at the University of Washington Tacoma. This is excerpted from her article that originally appeared in The Ledger, the UWT weekly newspaper.

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