I’m sure you’ve noticed how people in America walk about the streets with their heads down. The environment in which we find ourselves caught up in is one of isolation with the personal bubbles we all create for ourselves. Our eyes are constantly glued to the tiny screens of our smartphones, instead of to the habitat and other individuals in our surroundings. Could it be that our days are so routine that we don’t see the need to take everything in? Or could it be the simple deterioration of human connection and interaction? There is no single or definite conclusion.
Our discussion in class concerning our generation as the “App Generation” reminded me of a popular youtube video called “Look Up.” The video emphasizes the potential corruption of apps and social media on building relationships with new people in our encompassing grounds. The video is split into two comparable parts: life before smartphones, tablets, social media and apps and then life with these technologies in the picture. The video brings up related issues we discussed in our class debate on Gardner’s “The App Generation,” such as isolation, loss of intimacy, communication and presence in society. The part of the video that really hit a soft spot, and definitely altered my view on the use of social media and technology, is when we are presented with two stories: 1) a guy walking down the street trying to get somewhere using a paper map, when a woman approaches him to help and they wind up falling in love, getting married, having kids and growing old together, and then 2) the same guy walking down the same street, but this time following a map in the Google maps app on his smartphone; I’m sure you can guess what happens. But if not, let me tell you – the guy ends up walking right past the same woman in the first story and their potential relationship and life together. While of course this doesn’t mean one would end up falling in love and marrying someone they happen to bump into on the street, but who knows? Not our generation if we remain consumed by our social media apps and technology, that’s for sure.
In the Czech Republic, however, I have noticed a difference in the daily lives of those around me. It seems as if more people are looking up. In Prague, I actually make eyecontact with people, and not just people on my iPhone screen. I try my best to keep my phone down while roaming the magnificent streets of Prague, for I am also guilty of looking down at my phone often. Yet, I find that when I try this in America those walking around me are all on their smartphones and tablets too; and while I still reap the benefit of observing my surroundings and being present in my body in space and time, the important elements of human growth, experience and interaction are completely out of the equation. So how do we stop this? Can we stop this? Well we have to start somewhere and I say we start with a friendly competition experiment: who can keep their phone away the longest while in public, and if doing so enriches one’s social, as well as personal, experiences of everyday life.