That Video About Putting Down Your Smartphone? Hogwash

social media rantUgh. I finally watched that video that’s been making the rounds on Facebook–the one with the Brit talking in rhyme about how we all need to put down our smartphones and start living in the moment. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

The thing’s gotten more than 20 million views on YouTube so far, and it irritated me to no end. Not because I don’t agree with some of the sentiment (I’ve blogged about a similar topic before), but because I think this particular version of the argument is the technological equivalent of some old guy yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. All it’s missing is the cane being shaken.

I don’t disagree that people are on their phones too much. I go to the school cafeteria, and I see whole tables where the students are just checking their phones instead of talking to each other. That certainly concerns me, but at the same time, as soon as I find myself arguing that, I begin to wonder. Wonder if I’m not turning into that old guy, reaching for his cane.

Technology is changing all the time. It’s inevitable that it’s going to change us along with it. Any time you’re the one standing on the street corner calling for all the other people out there to stop using technology, you run the risk of being this guy:

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.

What’s he talking about? Writing. As in, writing stuff down. Who is he? Plato. I’m as big a fan of Plato as the next cave, but I hope most of us can agree that writing was a fairly good thing, taken as a whole.

Back in 2010, the warning of the day was against the internet and information overload, but this article does a fine job of detailing how we as a species have apparently been in constant fear of change and disruption coming to life as we know it. In this case, I’m much more likely to listen to another smart guy: Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

What we’re seeing with smartphones and social media and Google Glass isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t the end of society, either. It’s just growing pains as we come to terms with new technology and the implications it has for our lives. The pains are more severe simply because technology is changing so quickly that we’re having a harder time keeping up with it.

What ticked me off about this video in particular is that its basic argument appears to be that participating in social media makes you anti-social. As far as I’m concerned, that’s pure garbage. I’m not going to argue that there are plenty of people who aren’t using social media as well as they might, but I have many close friends because of social media, not in spite of it. I’m not naturally a “go out and talk to strangers” sort of a guy. In days gone by, I would have far fewer friends than I have right now.

Social media is fantastic. It helps me stay in touch and communicate with so many people I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I for one am very grateful for it. I continue to be in touch with friends in Utah and Pennsylvania. Family in Texas or Arizona or Idaho. I use it to hold my writing groups. It’s a part of my life that makes things better for me, not worse.

The video also makes the argument that people are too busy documenting their lives instead of living their lives. Again, what a bunch of baloney. You might as well argue that we should ditch cameras or video cameras. These devices help us stay more in contact now than ever before. Yes, that changes the game a fair bit, but to me, smartphones and technology are incoming waves that can’t be stopped and shouldn’t be ignored. We all have a choice to make: we can stomp our foot and pout that life is changing–we can let that wave overwhelm us or pass us by–or we can use that wave to propel us to interesting new heights and places.

Sink or surf, baby.

Should we be thoughtful before we whip out the smartphone in the middle of a movie or date? Of course. Should we talk to the people we’re with instead of constantly interrupting those relationships so we can text? Sure. But don’t try to argue with me that we should leave our phones home entirely, or give those things up.

After all, HAVEN’T YOU PEOPLE SEEN ANY HORROR MOVIES?

Leaving your phone home is just what the zombies want you to do, people.

In any case, I’m sure I’ll continue seeing it posted, but for now, I’m done with that video. Sorry people. I ain’t buying this one.

3 Comments

  • By DRC, May 6, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

    Bravo!

  • By Bryan, May 7, 2014 @ 12:38 am

    I shared that video on my FB, because i do believe some of the sentiment of it. But i’m so glad you posted this on your blog. Very valid points. Plus it made me laugh several times. Especially with the old man analogy. So true!

  • By Mike, May 7, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

    Dumb.

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