Problem Essay

In Defense of Social Interaction

Looking around in the Coho on a particularly sunny day, I noticed that quite a few people had their phones out and were doing something on their phones.

Practically everybody.

This would be fine if they were sitting alone. But no, everyone was on their phones while at a table full of people. Nobody was talking to each other either, they were too busy doing whatever they were doing on their phones and ignoring others when they were being addressed.

What the hell?

I couldn’t even say my group of friends was different. A lot of them were on their phones playing games or checking their Facebook, or Twitter, or some other thing I don’t care to list. Trying to start a conversation with them is like trying to take a baby bottle from an infant, instant pouting and crying. They just can’t seem to get off their phones.

What has happened in the past couple of years? I can’t have a civil conversation with someone anymore without them looking at their phones?

This is becoming a serious problem in modern society. The smart phone has brainwashed the masses. They blindly follow the companies which make smart phones and people magically produce the new model of each smart phone every time there is an upgrade. How do you people have the money for this? No longer are people able to hold a conversation with another person, now everyone converses online and through text instead of in person.

That is ridiculous.

A girl I know has a gigantic problem with social interaction nowadays. I knew her as a generally shy girl when I met her, but smart phones has made her communication issues worse. Now she can’t even talk with her friends in person. If you try and talk with her today she will do one of two things. She will either text you her response, or she will message you on Facebook.

That makes me sad.

A girl who has problems with communicating in society now can’t even hold a conversation and has to rely on her phone to talk to people now. It has made a shy girl more shy if that was even possible. Now of course this is just one example of an extreme case, but if I challenged you to look around the Coho and quad area of UC Davis I would bet that at least half of the people have their phones out or in plain sight. It is like people cannot live without their phones, almost as if their phones were a lifeline.

I cannot deny the convenience that a phone provides, but what infuriates me is all this superfluous crap.

I can understand the need of a phone. I have personally been in an emergency situation where a cell phone essentially saved a life. What I can’t understand is how the phone has evolved to the point that people rely on the phone for social status rather than trying to get the acceptance of others in the real world. Before one’s status in society was determined by how much money they had, or how cool they were to their peers. Now the value of one’s worth is determined by how many people give you “likes.” Something that really grinds my gears is when I go out to a restaurant with another person, and they have to take a picture of their food so others can see it. The cool kids apparently use snap chat to take a picture and submit it online for others to judge and give likes and dislikes accordingly. And somehow this raises your status in society.

I can tell you right now, posting a picture of your food didn’t make you cool before and in my eyes it doesn’t make you cool now. All it does is reinforce the values that pictures of food gets you “likes”. And I can tell you it certainly does a good job of this, but how does that equate to the real world if you don’t even talk to the people who like your posts? Can you truly say someone is a friend if you only communicate through “likes” online? The sad thing is, I’m sure some people would say yes to this question, because now it is the connections we have online that elevate us in the world.

The fact of the matter is, with the age of technology quickly shifting and evolving people feel the need to move with the wave or risk being left behind. I can tell you however that you do not need the hip new smart phone to function in society. I have been living without a smart phone since its introduction to the technological age.

Perhaps it is the lack of a smart phone that has caused me to act so negatively towards those who use their phones religiously, but I haven’t had a smart phone for some five odd years and I still am perfectly capable of living in a world which is ruled by the smart phone. I do have a phone, but use it for emergencies and calls only. If I am sent a text, I demand a call back instead of texting back a response because I would like to hear it from someone’s voice rather than through text which anybody else can easily manipulate. I always have been wary of text ever since I was tricked into believing my friend was dying. With vocal confirmation at least you can catch the vocal tones of a person and tell if they are lying or telling the truth. But with text, you just have no way of knowing. In any case, it is clear that physical interaction with others is on the decline in favor of online interaction, hell even talking on the phone doesn’t have the same impact as a physical one on one talk.

I will confess that there are benefits to this new social strategy, the chief benefit being convenience. Having a smart phone means getting acceptance from one’s own peers is as simple as clicking a button on the phone. All you have to do is take a picture, and one click later you are drowning in “likes.” Social media has evolved to the point where physical interaction means less for people and “likes” mean more. That can be really good for certain groups of people. I know a friend who got a job as an artist just by putting his work online for others to judge, and people loved it. So in some ways I can see the benefits of social media.

But we can do without it.

Turn back the clock ten or so years and you will see that people lived without smart phones. Before people were civil with each other and were able to hold a conversation without having to grab at their phones. There will always be a sense of uncertainty and fear when you talk to someone. You instinctively are on guard when you meet a new person because you don’t know them and how they are like. I understand the apprehension that comes from talking in real life. But people have been friendly and courteous with each other before, and we certainly can do with some of that now.

And in the end that’s all it takes to make a friend. Social conventions be damned, we need to go back to how we used to treat one another. So many things have happened in the United States over the past couple of years that has shifted social norms. No longer are we allowed to address strangers without seeming weird or crazy. I can’t link these changes to the smart phone, but the smart phone certainly isn’t helping the issue. We need to go back to how we once were, friendly to one’s fellow man and open to social interaction.

All it takes is a ‘hello’.

 

Dung Nguyen

 

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