Are smartphones ruining our relationships with each other?

No man’s land...

At this moment in time, as I sit here in front of my laptop with my IPhone sitting beside me, there are no less than ten different ways to get in touch with me on either device. I am in fact, having two conversations with one person across three different messaging platforms. I am doing research for a project, looking at photographs on Facebook, drinking a green tea and waiting to meet a friend. I’ve checked my three email accounts 5 times in the last 20 minutes and if my phone beeps again, it is entirely likely I’m going to lose my mind.

“no man’s land”

Here’s the thing about multi tasking…no one can do it. You may think you can, but you can’t (says every study conducted on the subject by a credible neuroscientist ever). We are fairly decent at rapidly shifting our attention from one thing to the next, but where does that leave us?

Nowhere, that’s where. The vast majority of our time disappears into a sort of absent-minded “no man’s land” where nothing and no one gets our undivided attention.

It’s ironic that in this age of hyper-connectivity, we are increasingly disconnected from each other and our surroundings. So rarely, are we ever in one place, with one person, sharing in the full experience of the present moment. So rarely do we stop to notice the sounds of the sidewalk or the peculiarities of strangers passing by . What are we missing out on when we focus all our energy on never missing out?

On the way to work, on the buses, trams and trains; we travel alone, together. With eyes glued to glowing screens we hardly notice each other. We don’t exchange words, or smiles, or passing glances—not because we don’t want to, but because our attention is elsewhere. After a long day’s work we sit down at the bar, or table, or on the couch with friends, family, or lovers, but conversations are punctuated by pings and beeps. What did you miss when you were posting on Facebook about what you were doing instead of just doing it? Who haven’t you met today because you’ve been looking down, instead of around? Are our smartphones really worth the trade off?


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