Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On Never Looking Up

There's a new tumblr blog called "We Never Look Up" - which pretty well depicts the experience of those of us without smartphones (by choice in my case) in any public space. In my opinion the loss of actual human connection is huge. I've been slowly making my way through Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman - a book written about the cultural effects of TV and (as the title implies) perpetual amusement. The book better applies to the internet and smartphones now. He writes,
"Americans no longer talk to each other, the entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; the exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities, and commercials. For the message of television [and the internet perhaps]  as metaphor is not only that all the world is a stage but that the stage is located in Las Vegas, Nevada."
Yesterday my middle school students told me that because I have an outdated phone, no cable tv, and listen to "weird music" I must be... an alien. Ha Ha. Hilarious - but also an obvious indication that I'm swimming against the tide with my frustration with the overuse and constant amusement people insist on with their smartphones.

It isn't this way everywhere - in fact, in Italy - people look up. It was instantly clear to us that we had arrived back in the United States last Monday when we looked around the room and saw "phone drones" everywhere. In a interesting study written up in Business Insider, "There is also the Italian attitude towards the utility, or should that be futility, of the world wide web...over a quarter (26.7%) of Italians think the internet is useless and uninteresting." I found Italians talking to each other, talking to strangers, enjoying the beauty of their city, and all the while - not looking down at their phones.

I know the chances of this trend reversing are minimal but maybe once in a while- take a walk around your neighborhood without your phone. Do you really need to know what everyone else is eating right now or what their baby looks like today?


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