You can’t go anywhere on the internet these days without some sort of article about how smartphones are making us stupid, or complaining about how no one talks to each other anymore. Or the multitude of memes comparing teenagers on cell phones to zombies. Granted, there is always the grumbling from the previous generations about the technology of the newer generations but for introverted, curious, nerdy writers like me, the gadgets are a lifesaver.
To be honest, I’m one of those folks who will have their nose in a gadget (my phone, laptop, or Kindle) most of the time. I am willing to make sure that I turn it off when I need to. I also keep it on vibrate because I find the sound notifications annoying. (I got into the habit mostly because I used to have to go to a lot of meetings when I was working in biotech, and then classes when I was in seminary, both places where the constant ping of notifications are forbidden.) The benefits for me, though, have been enormous: no longer do I need to carry a portfolio of cd’s and a Walkman with me. No longer do I have to carry a bunch of books in my backpack, along with a notebook, spare batteries, maps, bus schedules, and tons of spare change. I have a smartphone that has more music than I could every have possibly carried in a CD portfolio. I have a Kindle that weighs about the same as a paperback book that, at current count, has 99 books on it. And I have a laptop that lets me write anywhere I want without having to cut down more trees for journals that I may not actually fill.
The biggest advantage about my gadgets, though, is that it lets me communicate with the world on my own terms. Phones have always been an intrusion in my life and I’ve always hated talking on the phone. Email and text are my primary methods of communication now, which is much more comfortable and useful for me. While I don’t do phone calls, Skype has made long distance communication so much better because it’s not a disembodied voice at the end of a wire anymore: you can actually see the person you’re talking to and get all the visual cues that the phone just can’t give you.
In reality, it hasn’t really changed much about the way that I interact with people in public. I’ve always had some sort of Walkman with headphones and my nose in a book, especially when I’m traveling long distance or on any form of public transport. Having a smartphone makes it much much easier to have all sorts of things I to do, including catch up on communication, in a very small package. This also has made air travel a little more pleasant. I can watch a movie or listen to music on my phone without having to use my laptop and take up more space. Being a big girl, this is a godsend because it makes a very unpleasant interaction with people a little easier for all of us. (And I can still watch videos even when the person in front of me decides to recline their seat all the way down.)
For a lot of people, the technology we have now makes life much easier and more interactive than it used to be. They are able to communicate with people from the outside world in ways that are comfortable for them. It also makes it so that people who have to be away from each other can “see” each other, even if they are on opposite ends of the earth. It gives people with agoraphobia, or who are housebound, a way to interact with the world that lets them feel that they are still a part of it. Yes, there are issues that we still have to work out about the new technology that we have, but for me, and many other people, life is much better with it than without.