A friend shared an article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/07/14/why-you-should-really-seriously-permanently-stop-using-your-smartphone-at-dinner/) that suggested that everyone should just stop using their smartphones. The reason? The use of the phones gets in the way of REALLY connecting with people. While the author was very sincere, and the article was well written, I believe that there is a good argument for the opposite viewpoint. While I truly believe the author needs people to put phones down, there are people like myself that need to hold onto them.
The author, let's call her Sue, stated that people were too involved with their smartphones and not involved enough with the people in front of them. She went on to say that people would treat the smartphone connections, such as e-mail, texting, and social media sites, as a valid substitute for face-to-face encounters. Sue felt that people needed to step around the wall of the smartphone. She said that everyone should just take a very long break from the distancing technology and connect in person. I see her point, but I also believe that her solution is not a good fit for all people.
Why is the author's opinion valid, and mine also perhaps? I believe that Sue is an extrovert. Functionally I am an introvert. The difference of relating dictates how we view the smartphone technology. Our views are driven by what makes us comfortable when we interact with others. Our differences have important social ramifications, and recognizing the differences is important because applying a “one shoe fits all” policy to smartphones is not healthy for anybody.
Sue the extrovert wants to meet people face-to-face. She is most comfortable when a person is in front of her. She wants to communicate directly to the person and have that communicated reciprocated in a similar fashion. The ideas of doing some alone is unpleasant for the extreme extrovert. I've heard of extroverted people who were not comfortable eating alone or going to a movie alone. The smartphone is a double whammy to the extrovert. Excessive use of the phone as a communication method removes people from the extrovert's proximity. If people are present, but they are busy using their smartphones, the extrovert's face-to-face interaction is disturbed, and this bothers the extrovert. Stopping the use of smartphones pleases the extrovert very much because it sets up the social dynamic to their liking.
Introverts, like myself (an introverted extrovert), don't mind a little distance between ourselves and others. Constant face-to-face can be tiring or even intimidating. Today's smartphone provides an assembly of tools that allow for distanced communication. Better yet, we can pace ourselves in our communication. The text message, e-mail, or instant message can wait until we are ready to address it. If we find ourselves in a socially overwhelming situation, the smartphone can provide a needed distraction. Introverts do want to communicate. We are not shut-ins. The communication just needs to be in a form and tempo that suits us. The smartphone provides a technological bridge between ourselves and others. Without this bridge we could be more isolated. Stopping the use of smartphones would not help the introvert.
Where does that leave Sue and myself? I have compassion for her. She wants the world to sit down with her one-on-one. I'd rather not do that all the time. She thinks it would be nice for me to step away from my smartphone. I think it is a wonderful tool for my connection to the larger world. If we ever met, this Sue and I, we would sit down and talk, but then I think I would take a moment to check my smartphone while she carried on her conversation with others.