Put Away the Phone and Have Some Face Time

You surprised me. With all the shiny little gadgets within reach of your eager fingers, why could you possibly want to read something as archaic as a newspaper? Oh, I get it. You’re probably sitting on the bus trying to avoid eye contact with the person sitting across from you — that’s not awkward at all. So, stick your face in this newspaper and make it look like you’re busy.

Now, I’m not some technology Nazi. I know that not all of us are social butterflies and I do know that we need our phones, but phones, iPods and computers shouldn’t domi- nate our social interactions. They’re crutches, helping us with the insecuri- ties of dealing with others.

As Apple continues churning out cooler and cooler versions of the iPhone and Skype and Facetime make remote communication even easier, we’re losing our ability to socialize in person. As etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore so poignantly put it, “Some people think this technology can make us more productive. But it’s not helping us with social skills. It’s alien- ating us from other people.”

That probably reminded you to check your phone for texts. Resist, and just finish reading. I dare you.

Last week, in Cafe Roma, the girl sitting to my left was furiously typing out a wall post, the girl to my right was texting and awkwardly laughing to herself and the guy sitting at the table directly across was drooling as his iPod sweetly sung him to sleep.

So I just sat there, sipping my hot chocolate. I sat and I listened to the obnoxious clicking of the texts being sent and tweets being written. I thought, “Why the hell did I come to a coffee shop?” I guess I was hoping to people-watch or eavesdrop on some interesting human-to-human conver- sations. Maybe even do something adventurous and talk to a complete stranger. Fat chance.

Coming here as a transfer student, it appears that the concentration of socially awkward people is much higher per square-foot in this school than other places. Maybe it’s because we’re a school filled with students neck-deep in MCAT preparation, or our bio majors are too busy research- ing the cure for cancer. Either way, we’re not nicknamed the “UC of the Socially Dead” without reason, and the influx of technology doesn’t help.

It’s easy to get comfortable, and it’s understandable to sometimes want to ignore the world, but remember: A little human-to-human interac- tion never hurt anyone. If your daily interactions with people require you to be plugged into a device, then take the first step in suppressing gadget impulses. Set rules for when you can and can’t use your phone. Try to walk down Library Walk without your iPod. Try sitting in the library with your phone off.

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