Danny Miles: To old skeptics, phones do increase sociability

The Salt Pile

I don’t know if there’s something in the air or if it’s just that time of year again, but I’ve started seeing an increase in posts on my Facebook feed making fun of millennials and their smartphones. I’m sure most of you have seen something like this: picture a political cartoon, usually by a B-list cartoonist, with two students holding books in the back of a lecture hall. One turns to the other and whispers, “Any idea how to turn this thing on?” while the other just shrugs in response.

This particular cartoon, and others of its ilk, really get the old salt mines running for me. I always figured this response was due to me feeling like these cartoons were a personal slight on me, but I realized that it’s something else; these cartoons are representing a fundamental misunderstanding of our generation, and they’re indicative of the divide between our generations in such a condescending way that I can’t help but be angry.

Why are smartphones today’s foremost icon for lampooning? I can only reason that it comes from older Americans’ complete ignorance of today’s technology. Instead of accepting that progress marches on with or without their consent, they instead reason that this ignorance works both ways. We end up with “biting commentaries” of today’s dependence on smartphones and other personal electronics, and jokes like teenagers not understanding books. This by the way, is soundly disproved by merely stepping into a Case Western Reserve University student’s room. I wish I didn’t understand books; maybe then I’d have less homework.

The worst offenders aren’t these cartoons, though. There’s another kind of post that really exemplifies a misunderstanding of technology; they exemplify a misunderstanding of the very reason for technology. These come in the form of a poorly-edited picture with “Today’s kids don’t talk to each other. They’re always on their phones!” pasted on top.

That sentiment bothers me even more, and for a very simple reason. What do you use your phone for, more than anything else? If I were a betting man, I’d wager my entire student loans on your answer being, “to talk to people.” (Just take your checks directly to Bursar’s Office. I’ll be waiting.)

I’m not sure how the concept of using the phone to talk to others was lost along the way, but it seems that older people can’t grasp this simple concept. When I’m buried in my phone, I’m not just playing games or browsing the Internet, although I admit I do that frequently. If my attention is totally captured by my phone, though, odds are that I’m having a conversation. It might be about nothing, it might be of paramount importance, but the point is that I’m not withdrawing from the world, I’m immersing myself in it. With smartphones, we’re more connected and talking than ever before. Instead we see old naysayers lament the death of personal interaction.

In the end, I think that’s what angers me the most. Like it or not, smartphones are here to stay, and they’re critical to keeping our generation connected and united, both through social networking and direct contact. The implication that being glued to our phones is heralding the end of society as we know it was outdated the day it started. When the regular telephone was invented, older people were just as quick to criticize its impact on society; this is the same exact thing, 100 years in the future.

I’m not “losing out” on personal relationships because of my phone. I’m keeping ones that might not have survived the college transition. I’m keeping in touch with my family. I’m keeping watch over people I care about through social media. Smartphones aren’t going away, and they’re not some harbinger of the singularity. They’re important to us, and maybe someday we can get that across to the older generation.

Danny Miles is a second-year. He is worrying about his blood pressure these days. The doctors are telling him this much salt isn’t good for the heart.