Regular followers of this blogspace are, doubtlessly, aware that it has eternally been our view, that whatever convenient benefits are concomitant to the widespread use of “smartphones,” the same are, outweighed, by its resulting, lack of recognizable personality, expression and spontaneous response. The substitution of the computer transmitted, ersatz messages, for personal conversation. (Face-to-face, telephone) has been a salient factor in the growing impersonality, and lack of joint enterprise.
In a separate, but related context, our recent essay, “The Masquerade,” while acknowledging the wisdom and prudence of wearing a mask during pandemic time, nevertheless, observed the unnatural and dystopic sight of crowds, masked and uniformly, lacking in social expression and communication.
Augmenting that dystopic and bizarre sight, one is witness to his fellow man, masked and, routinely, looking downward at his respective smartphone, the latter, unfortunately, his sole liaison with the world of “others.” Like identical toy soldiers, or synchronized ballet dancers, they move, together, or in separate directions, uniformly, gazing downward, at small flat objects (smartphones) held in the palm of the hand; rarely, looking upward (as would be appropriate, for the anthropologically evolved, Homo sapiens.) All concentration is rooted on the cell phone, the source of route determination, of general and encyclopedic information, music, photographs, computation, photography, film and television, as well as the digitally received, computer style messages and texts. There is scarce impetus, at the present time, to look upward (the posture continuously maintained, since the species began to walk upright, in Paleolithic times). Additionally, evolution’s gift of an opposing thumb, enabling Early Man to make tools is contemporaneously, lauded for its specific utility in facile “texting” and general cell phone operation.
We would ask the reader, to picture the everyday, dystopic, scene of large hordes of individual Homo sapiens, masked, conceivably, lonely, uniformly, looking downward at their palms, to connect with humanity; despite the empirical reality, that many of its members are located at his elbow, similarly and autonomously, peering at small, lit, screens sitting on the palm of their hands. It is a bizarre scene, uniformly, silent, like choreographed swans, a flock of arctic penguins or a herd of grazing sheep.
Of still greater import than the bizarrely, chilling sight of uniform, manikin-like individuals, in mechanical synchrony, looking downward at their respective palms,( and its consequent, dehumanizing, absence of interactive communication), is the observation we have lost the franchise for free, introspective, personal thought, or private rumination. Tragically, we leave no room, time or opportunity, away from the mandatorily, close scrutiny of the lighted screen on our hand-held smartphones, for a pleasant journey in thought, for our aspirational daydreams. This personal loss is a costly debit against humanity’s aesthetic aspirations and its eternal hope for an improved society. Should this smartphone waltz is not re-choreographed, it may ultimately, result in a ritual dance of sentient, cognitive death.
We have lost the valuable, momentary diversion, or respite, to daydream, the latter, an extra bonus included, among many others, in Evolution’s generous gift to Man of a superior brain. Society has bartered fantasy and imaginative creation, unwisely, for the time required for the rapt scrutiny, required by the use of the smartphone. The absence of the occasional diverting benefits of the momentary, private daydream or fantasy relegates the individual, exclusively to the hard, immutable facts of what may be a humdrum or disappointing reality. Daydreaming is an outlet for frustration, and, when used reasonably (and not as a substitute for reality) is a soothing, albeit ephemeral, but personally needed, oasis, in an unrelenting desert of disappointment or frustration; and significantly, an opportunity for relief, personal creativity and theoretical, problem-solving.
We are fearful that society’s irresponsible choice to converse by smartphone, in lieu of personal conversation, may be a foreboding, not only of the mortal end of (the reassurance of) natural inter-personal conversation but, as well, the salutary, thoughtful, and unexpressed stream of internal conversation (introspective thought) within ourselves.