Welcome to the Age of the Anti-Social

Many people, especially those who use it most, seem to think that technology is the death of in-person interaction and socializing. Countless videos and talks have been made around how if people put their phones down in whatever public place they may be, then suddenly they will make new friends with the people around them. In her most recent book, Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle, a Harvard graduate who is also the professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses how, "We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection." While this could be true in some extremely rare cases, the whole idea is a bit laughable. Meanwhile in some other extremely rare cases, technology is the bane of socializing, but not because of the device.

I have read plenty of stories on the Internet of people going on dates, only to find that the person they're with would much rather sit and look at their phones. While this baffles me, it's not a totally unbelievable situation. In a Time article, this act, which is called "pphubbing," is somewhat common and hurting relationships with friends or significant others. Whoever thought pphubbing was an acceptable term for this phenomenon is completely beyond me; the strange term is short for "partner phone snubbing." People of all ages do this all the time. Whether it's with family, friends, or colleagues, people would rather be distracted with their phones than socialize.

This anti-social tendency has spawned countless technophobic videos saying that smartphones are inhibiting people from truly interacting with other people around them. These videos show everyone's phones magically shutting off, and then they all suddenly start complimenting and talking to each other, or just that everyone except a single person is on their phone and how sad it looks. These videos are meant to promote random socialization at public places and to use smartphones less -- but, as many people in the comment sections of Facebook and YouTube have astutely pointed out, "I grew up in a time before smartphones and the Internet, I still didn't talk to random people out in public then." This "issue" of people not freely speaking to whomever they wish out in public has existed for a long time. Now people finally have something sensible and tangible to blame for it.