Technology is supposed to make us more connected. We can stay in touch with our friends all the time on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and, of course, by texting. But are our smartphones actually getting in the way of real socializing? Could technology be making us more alone?
The above YouTube video from 2013 by the comedian and actress Charlene deGuzman suggests just that. It has been viewed almost 50 million times. In “Disruptions: More Connected, Yet More Alone,” Nick Bilton writes:
Ms. deGuzman’s video makes for some discomfiting viewing. It’s a direct hit on our smartphone-obsessed culture, needling us about our addiction to that little screen and suggesting that maybe life is just better led when it is lived rather than viewed. While the clip has funny scenes — a man proposing on a beach while trying to record the special moment on his phone — it is mostly … sad.
When we asked this same question three years ago, the sentiment struck a nerve with many students. In hundreds of comments, students talked about how technology was often intruding in their relationships. Taylor wrote:
I often find myself surrounded by people staring at their phones and I am even guilty of doing it. I think if one person is staring at their phone, everyone else tends to do it, whether it be self consciously or just in order to avoid an awkward situation.
Madalyn shared, “My mother is always staring down at her smartphone, never listening.”
Some students talked about trying to set boundaries. Bronte wrote:
I’ve set limits for myself when I’m hanging out with friends and family. I’ve noticed that relationships become real. People become people, not just fantasies of what their lives are portrayed as on social media.
Not everyone agreed, though. Nakota wrote:
I believe that technology is a great way to get into contact with other people. I am a shy person, so I do not enjoy to talk to people face to face. Skype is one way that I avoid this. I can have private conversations with people I know personally.