I often hear people complain about the state of communication in the world. You know, “Does anyone know how to effectively communicate anymore?” “Doesn’t anyone know how to have a conversation in person?” And then I hear those same people blame this on smartphones. “What will kids be like if they’ve grown up using smartphones instead of talking to each other?”
But wait a minute. I’m fairly certain that it is people around my age complaining about other people around my age, and we didn’t grow up on smartphones or even just plain old cell phones for that matter. The wide use of smartphones has only been going on for the past ten years or so. Could it be that something else is to blame for our lack of communication skills?
I look at it this way. I got my hands on this new technology later in my life, not too old to be able to use it and adapt my ways and not too young to live the rest of my life as if it has always existed (like I do with microwaves). Yes, sometimes I have a hard time balancing my usage. I’m fascinated with the idea that I can communicate with so many people from all over the world so quickly and at all times. It’s a tad overwhelming. I’m learning new rules of etiquette and adapting old ones. We all misunderstand each other quite often. I mess up and overreact to things and lose track of what’s happening right next to me because I’m busy reading about what my friend in Switzerland is doing today. It’s new. I’m excited. I’m learning. We’re the problem on the internet. Not the kids.
The kids are growing up with this technology. They use it and adopt all the rules and etiquette regarding it as second nature. The same way they learned to use their limbs to get where they wanted to go and words to get what they wanted verbally. They will have no problem in the future, that is, with smartphones anyway. They live it. They understand it in the context of their lives, not ours.
Should you not let your child have a smartphone? That’s up to you. My kids didn’t have one when they were tiny because they weren’t widely used yet. They did play with my cell phone and make pretend calls to Grandma by flipping open repeatedly and jabbering into it. A land line phone is a complete novelty to them. They can’t imagine not being able to make a call to anyone, anywhere, at any time. But they did get a smart phone when they were about 12/13 years old. We found some that were cheap enough for us to buy. They could make calls but the “smart” part only worked when they found WiFi (which is everywhere really). It was the cheapest way. We’re not made of money!
They are 15/16 years old now and have shiny new smartphones with unlimited data. It’s more expensive but we found a way to swing it and let me tell you how awesome it is to have a “google duel” in the middle of a movie or event. No one can pull a fast one around here. Who’s that actor? Was he in that other show? What year was that? Is that historically accurate? What is the atomic weight of Beryllium? It’s endless and a lot of fun, not to mention educational and mind-expanding.
Does my son spend an inordinate amount of time texting his girlfriend? Yes. In terms of my teenage years, it’s the same as when I sat on the phone with my boyfriend listening to him play a game with his brother while I was traveling with my family. It irritated my mother to no end, mostly because she really would have liked to use the phone herself or maybe have me participate in family activities. But I was becoming my own person, looking out into the world instead of back into my family and their inane card games and spaghetti dinners!
When I talk to my kids about how I feel like I’m using my phone to communicate too much or that I spend too much time on Facebook trolling what others are up to and getting angry about it, they look at me like I’ve lost my mind. One of my sons told me that my Facebook feed doesn’t have enough funny stuff on it. It’s filled with news outlets, writers, and education things. He added some pages that he finds hilarious. Unfortunately, I don’t always get the joke and it makes me feel a little old but I laugh anyway and “like” the ones I get. Until he showed me, I didn’t even know there were pages that just put out funnies, like the funny pages only better! I found some that were more my speed. The point is that they don’t use the technology like we do and they don’t worry over it either. They see things and move on. They know how many different versions of every event are out there. Heck! They can post their own if they like. They comment here and there when the mood strikes them. They post their own things, or not. They all use it their own way. We could take some lessons from them for sure.
Our kids are doing what we all did growing up, leaving the family behind. They just do it differently now with high tech gadgets that are integral to life now. Yes, you can live without a smartphone but, like living without chocolate, I don’t recommend it. It really isn’t much fun. “Save a tree! Use Google Maps!” and “Wikipedia” is the better than any two shelves full of thirty-year-old encyclopedias!
We need to focus on ourselves. If we feel like we aren’t communicating with those around us, maybe we need to change something. Maybe we can ask a friend for a lunch date, put away our phone and talk about what’s been going on? Maybe we can call our Mom and ask her how she’s doing? Maybe we can write a letter to an older family member that really doesn’t understand this whole Facebook thing. Do something to communicate with others they way you feel they want to be reached and you’ll find that life is still basically the same, just with better toys that can order your lunch before you even get to the restaurant!