As I sit down to write this morning, I’m thinking about something I saw this morning on my way to work when I was dropping my son off at Kindergarten. As I’m pulling out of the street that his school is on, I happen to glance to my left to the high school students gathered on the corner at their bus stop. I have always known that there was a stop there, and I have from time to time noticed a teen or two walking past my car heading there, or standing at the corner as I pulled out of the street. However, today when I looked I feel like I actually SAW them.
My first thought was, “Wow. There are so many kids at this one stop.” I counted seven. (Could have been more, but this is the number that popped into my head.) and then what I noticed that every, single, one of these kids was looking down at their phones. All of them. Nobody looked up at me as I pulled up next to them, nobody looked up to see if their bus was coming, nobody looked up to talk to another kid that was standing inches from them. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. (Well, except for their finger scrolling the screen, or texting.) I got stuck waiting at the end of the street for a few moments due to the traffic coming, and I was mesmerized. Nope. Nobody lifted their heads once. Not once. I was tempted to just slam on my horn to see if I might snap them out of their trance, but decided against it. It was weird to watch, almost eerie.
I don’t know why, but this stuck with me the whole ten minute commute I have to work. I started thinking to myself, Is it like this everyday? Do they greet each other first, and then get out their phones? Do they ever have a real, live, conversation with each other? Ever? I felt almost bad for these teens, as I watched them, and then again thought about them on my drive. I am not really sure why it stuck with me. I am sure they were all texting friends, checking Instagram, or snap-chatting and being very social. (Well, technology social) Yet, to me they all seemed so isolated as they stood there all together, but completely alone in their own little worlds as they looked down at their phones, completely unaware of the world around them. I thought it was a bit sad. It also scared me a little quite honestly. I mean is that what we are coming too? That as a society we’d prefer to be on our phones than to have face to face interactions with people? That real, live, communication is secondary to our technology world? The truth is, yes. I feel it might be.
I think of these kids when they get to school. Clearly, once the bell rings the phones go away. They are then “forced” to communicate with their peers and teachers face to face. Yet, when the bell rings, my guess, is they are right back to it. I see it with my own students and they are in 5th grade! Most of them have iPhones, and once the dismissal bell rings, the phones all come out. They stand in a group outside the gym doors and are all on their phones. I joke with them, “Who are you all texting? Everyone you know is right here!?” They look up (sometimes) smile and laugh and get right back to their screen worlds. They aren’t doing anything “wrong”, this is just the world they live in and how they were raised. Technology is everywhere and a huge part of society, education, and life.
As I continued to think about this bus-stop, I began to think of myself, and my adult friends and family. Truth be told, we ALL are guilty of similar behaviors and habits. All of us also have our phones glued to us as at all times. My 65 year old mom, texts me now daily as opposed to calls me. There is something nice about the fact that I don’t feel as guilty when I don’t respond right away like I would if ignored her phone call, but the fact that my MOM, who is not very tech-savvy, is a big texter just shows the signs of our times. Even in my own circle of friends, the #1 way we communicate is through text. The only time we really ever “call” each other is if we are in the car driving! Honestly, group texting is the easiest, most convenient way to make plans!! When I really think about it, my phone on average is probably used for 85% texting, 15% emails/internet and 5% actual phone calls. So, it is definitely a way of life.
So, I guess what really bothered me about what I saw was just the complete lack of awareness of others, or the desire to actually have a real conversation with a live person! How much will this affect their social relationships in real life? Again, thinking of my own experiences with friends, I have been in situations where I am dumbfounded by the amount of time some of my friends are on their phones! Those nights when a bunch of us finally get together for a girls night, and a few are sitting there with their phones out, texting or posting during conversations. This drives me crazy! It’s rude, but the worst part about it is that many people don’t even realize they are doing it. They are surrounded by their friends and/or family and they are unaware of what is being said, and they are missing out.
So, I need to take responsibility for a few things here: Yes, I text more than I call. I may even post “Happy Birthday” on your Facebook wall when back in the day, I’d have to call you, and I do check Instagram when I’m on the couch with my son watching kids movies. However, when we are having family time, my husband and I are on a date, or my friends get together for a much needed girl’s dinner, phones away! I want to talk, laugh, make eye contact, and just have some good quality face to face time! There really is nothing better than that.