This month our Yorkshireman takes aim at our rampant phone use…

Not Engaged

As I write this article I am sat on a sun lounger in a Turkish holiday resort, where I am performing comedy to holiday makers (I know, it’s a nightmare isn’t it) and I’m doing one of my favourite things, people watching (being nosey). During my stay, I have been alarmed by the amount of people who won’t leave their screens alone. Bronzed faces fixated on tablets and phones, only breaking their trance every so often to lift up the red-hot device to prevent third degree burns to their genitals.

This week I’ve seen a real contrast in behaviour at meal times between the families of the locals and the brits abroad. In the case of the locals the air was alive with chatter and excitement. Some of the British families had the same routines every night, children were sat down, babies plonked in a high chair, the food was put in front of them followed by an iPad placed so closely, that their nose was almost brushing against the screen, some of them even had to lift the fork over the edge just to get the food into their mouths. Meals were eaten mainly in silence, before finally mum and dad joined in with their own phones.

The phone is now our priority, it’s an appendage, look how we can’t separate it from our lives anymore. Go to a live concert, people are on the phones, overtake a car on the M6, he’s on his phone, go out for a drink with a friend you haven’t seen in years and the phones sit there on the table, always in the eye-line, always tempting you, “go on, you haven’t touched me in a few minutes, I might have something you want”. It’s like being in a relationship with a rampant nymphomaniac who won’t leave you alone.

I know it sounds like I’m being deliberately over the top here, but I really think we will look back in years to come and recognise that the invention of the smart phone was the death knell for many things we used to take for granted. The art of conversation, creative thinking, day dreaming, the ability to relax and more crucially our ability to feel.

We are all constantly scrolling through that endless slew of information and not giving a second thought to how it affects us.

Social media is intertwined with your life, your family, and it always demands your attention. All these applications, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are fuelled by likes, validation of your content, it taps into our love of being praised. Look at the terminology used, “followers” “favourites”. It’s a desire for approval that started ever since your mother put that first picture on the fridge. I suppose one of the main differences is that you never feel the urge to use a smartphone in the toilet. My dad always took a newspaper into the loo, it was useful as it was a barometer for how long he would be in there for. If he took in just the motoring section then you could hang about on the landing, but if he disappeared with the Sunday papers you’d have to hold until school on Monday.

Recently my eldest daughter uploaded her very first YouTube video. She’s obsessed with the game Minecraft and regularly will watch videos of other gamers playing and giving a running commentary. I don’t get it, as far as I can see it was like when you used to go around to your mate’s house to play his new video game and he wouldn’t give you the controller. As soon as the video went live she was beaming with pride, which was swiftly followed by a feeling of continual anxiety as she refreshed the page to see how many “likes” she was getting. This generation is utterly defined by how others think of them, the “like” has become the currency of validation, it’s the monster that started with the selfie and it will only end in tears.

We are a world of voyeurs now; the next generation’s emotions are all boiled down to a basic simplification. “Like”, “angry”, “funny” all represented by an emoticon. It’s only a matter of time before it creeps into a wedding speech, “I knew she was the one for me when she was the first to like my status” or even worse a funeral, “we will really miss you Nanna, *sad face* *tear emoticon* #nannagone #noflowersplease”

It’s no wonder we are so de-sensitized. One minute its some photos from a wedding, the next a corpse from a recent terrorist attack all finished off with an album of Kevin’s brand-new summerhouse. We are all constantly scrolling through that endless slew of information and not giving a second thought to how it affects us. I know it can’t be stopped, it’s too late now. The smart phone is like the Terminator, “It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with and it won’t stop, even when you are dead”

Maybe we will wake up from this. Perhaps one day in the near future when the first baby is born with a screen for a face we might have a word with our selves. Either that or just take its picture and hope it goes viral.

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