Are Cell Phones Destroying Our Social Skills?
Recently, at a get together with friends, we were dining at a five-star restaurant in the area. The appetizer menu at this place is to die for, so we were all enjoying the passing of three different starters when I noticed something peculiar. The restaurant was jam packed, both in the upper dining room and the lower one; but it was quiet, except for us. It was oddly quiet, so I looked around. Every single table had at least three people on their cell phones. They were either texting, perusing the internet, or taking selfies, but the vast majority of the people in the restaurant were not speaking with their dinner companions, but communicating with someone else.
When meeting someone for dinner, I’ve established the habit of either putting my phone on silent or not removing it from my purse. I have parents and grandparents in the area, and I want to be reachable if needed, so I don’t ever leave it in my car, but I make an effort NOT to fiddle with my phone in the company of my friends. When we all get together, it’s a rarity due to marriages, children, and work, so we actually like to enjoy the company. The scene in this restaurant left me ill at ease, as it appeared that actual conversation had fallen by the wayside in favor of the virtual.
It’s no secret that texting is destroying our language skills. According to many high school teachers and college professors, students are barely able to spell, much less understand syntax or paragraph structure. Texting has allowed our nation’s youth (and adults) to accept a shortened form of speech that has transferred over in formal written communication, as well as our verbal communication. So, if texting has ruined the written language, what are cell phone apps doing to our social skills?
We’ve all been in that gathering, with that one friend, that continually has to ask us to repeat what we said, or rewind the movie because she was too busy staring at her phone. People have become obsessed with their phones, but it’s almost more than that. Have we become so dependent on our phones for entertainment and to pass the time that we’ve forgotten how to socialize with other people? It’s a scary thought that we no longer understand how to speak to other humans without having one eye on our phones.
Back in the day, when we were younger, if we had a friend over to our houses, we paid attention to them, and only them. The attention paid got so extreme at times that you and your friend would get into a bickering match because you’d spent too much time together. You’d gather together and play a game, watch a movie, or play outside, and we seem, as adults, to have forgotten how to do this. A dinner party should be centered around the deliciousness of the food on the table, and the witty banter amongst friends, not your friend’s text message alerts that keep going off.
When we consistently answer text messages while in the company of others, we’re communicating to our companions that our texts outrank their physical presence. It looks as if we’re simply waiting for something better to come along before we can ditch the people we’re with and find something more entertaining to do. Remember the days that our moms threw us in a room with our distant cousins, and we looked at each awkwardly until we found something in common and quickly became inseparable? Our cell phones aren’t allowing us to find the things in common, and thus progress to real friendship anymore. We’re simply surface friends.
We’re too busy looking at our cell phones to appreciate our surroundings. On a family vacation last year, two of my cousins spent so much time looking at their phones that they didn’t make it onto the beach for an entire day. Essentially, they had paid to go on vacation to do the same thing they did at home. Rather than enjoy a family dinner together with games, or long chats outside, each of them hunkered down into their devices and separated themselves from the group. Are we missing the good stuff, because of funny Instagram videos? And if so, how long is it going to take us to notice?
We’ve all got our heads shoved so far into our phones that we aren’t noticing all the cool stuff around us. We’re missing pivotal moments with friends and family, not hearing parts of conversations, and losing the basic human elements of our lives. While we may consider texting a form of communication, is it equal to an actual conversation? Or are we losing our social skills with increased cell phone usage?