The other day I was in a patient room making small talk with a 7 year-old, and I asked him, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” He quickly replied, “An inventor!” This of course led me to ask what he wanted to invent. “Useless gadgets!” he said. I then asked, “What are useless gadgets?” He replied, “You know things like cell phones, things people stare at all day.”
Things we should be staring at.
It is commonplace these days for me to walk into a patient room and not have the patient look at me for a second because they are browsing through selfies on Instagram. In fact, on occasion the parents themselves don’t make eye contact because Dr. iPhone is also in the room. Sometimes I wish I could send people a snapchat beforehand to let them know I am coming in the room. This begs the question: is it a good idea for our kids to be staring at these screens all day when we adults don’t even seem to have them figured out?
I once heard a story of two high school girls who got into a fight, which is run of the mill for high school life. Where this story took a fascinating turn was when twitter got involved. Students in the high school took to the social media platform to take sides in the fight, and were using the hashtag #teamX or #teamY to show support for one side or the other. Going through the experience of high school was hard enough on its own; I cannot fathom what it must be like with social media involved.
My thoughts aren’t meant to simply vilify cell phones and Facebook. These tools provide us with many advantages in terms of access to information, and they indeed have proved to be powerful utilities in the modern world. In fact, I am among the first to participate in their use (find me on twitter #irony). Rather, I question whether these things actually make us better people? Do they add to my human experience (people define themselves on social media using only emojis)? Am I more in touch with the people I know, or am I less?
I definitely know more about what people are doing (like when they are at the gym). However, I feel like I actually see the people I care about less and less (in real life) because of this. Nothing can replace the human experience of actual face-to-face contact. There are only so many moments we have in this life, and I don’t want to spend most of them staring at my soon to be 4.7 inch screen phone (iPhone 6+ is too crazy for me). Maybe the 7 year old was right, maybe these are all just “useless gadgets.” Seriously though, find me on twitter!