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Excuse me for minding your business

Our social interaction seems to be dominated by the smart phone

Try to remember the number of times you’ve been anywhere, and you or others you’ve seen are without a mobile phone handy, perhaps in use. Not many I wager.

Most of us are guilty of the habit of using the phone at inappropriate times or at least pulling it out so you won’t miss anything from it. Younger generations are worse behaved with their phones. They are better equipped to use them; just watch them text using their thumbs @ 150 w.p.m.

Our social interaction seems to be dominated by the mobile phone, excuse me, smart phone. It’s pandemic.

Primitive mobile phones were first used in police cars in Detroit in 1921. The first hand-held mobile phone was developed by Motorola in 1973 but didn’t hit the market until 10 years later. The first smart phones, one that could also exchange texts and emails, were sold in 2002. The first full-featured smart phone, a “touch phone”, the predecessor to all we use today, was the iPhone introduced by Apple in 2007. Twelve years ago!

Alvin Toffler wrote in Future Shock in 1970 that “the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed in the present, the 800th, lifetime (800 lifetimes, @ 62 years/person, since the beginning of known man). Mr. Toffler and his contemporaries recognized that technological change was accelerating at an increasing rate, and that social-psychological remedies were required to help us adjust to and manage the changes. Maybe more so today as we’re living longer and new, improved items are available to us at a greater accelerated rate, thanks to science and technology. The smart phone, with its incredible utility, accessibility, content and speed, for me is the epitome of this techno-science, consumer-driven revolution.

In her book, Talk to the Hand, Lynne Truss refers to “negative politeness”, not her creation but an acknowledgement of respect to someone’s private space or bubble in a crowded world. Certainly, when we’re on our mobiles in a public, or even among family at home, it seems we’re also demanding our own space. Except when we’re talking on or using the device in public. Then everyone in earshot or eyeshot is part of our conversation or neglectful behaviour. It’s contradictory to zone out in our crowd while using our mobiles to text, tweet, follow news on Facebook or other internet-enabled media. It’s also bad manners.

My generation can be just as guilty of these social offences but, we're mostly less proficient at social media, we tend to feel guilty and can usually stand to be corrected. I’m not sure it’s the same for younger generations. However, when public officials, especially the Tweeter in Chief down south, use social media extensively, how easy is it to tell the rest of us not to socially engage this way. And maybe that’s the epitome of the smart phone and the internet, global leadership by social media. Time to read Orwell’s 1984 again.

Roger Jackson is a former deputy minister and a St. Albert resident.

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