Technology Doesn't Make Us Less Social; It Just Changes The Way We Socialize
from the as-much-as-a-menace-to-society-as-baggy-pants-and-impertinent-hairdos dept
As the technology we hold in the palms of our hands continues to become more immersive, the narrative is pushed that smartphones and tablets are turning us into anti-social screen gazers, more interested in the world contained in the cloud than the world that surrounds us. But is this really a new narrative? Is it only now that we’ve become so entranced by streams of information that we’ve begun shutting out the sensory underload of everyday life?
Yes, the printed word, applied to paper, is more interesting than conversing with others or simply staring vacantly into space. For most people in a forcibly “social” situation — like waiting for mass transportation — having a smartphone or newspaper to “disappear” into rather than trying to engage in conversation with dozens of people they don’t know or care about is a plus, rather than an indicator of societal collapse. Put these people into situations with friends and acquaintances and its very likely the distractions will recede into the background. And even if they don’t, there’s likely a lot more “sharing” going on than can be perceived with the predisposed eye.
This “smartphones are inherently antisocial” narrative leads us directly to this — a wholly hilarious dismantling of a restaurant’s haughty pre-judging of its potential customers.
If you can’t read/see it, it says in boldly hand-written letters:
NO ‘WiFi’ ……….
TALK TO EACH OTHER.
CALL YOUR MOM.
PRETEND IT’S 1993.
The internet has no time for your neo-Luddite attitude, unnamed restaurant. Commenters quickly followed the line of thought to its logical conclusion.
NO “TELEPHONES”. TALK TO EACH OTHER. FACE TO FACE ONLY. WRITE A LETTER. SEND A TELEGRAM TO YOUR MOM. PRETEND IT’S 1860. LIVE.
NO ‘WRITING’… TALK TO EACH OTHER. THROW A ROCK AT YOUR MOM. PRETEND IT’S 10,000 BCE. LIVE.
NO ‘HIGHER BRAIN FUNCTIONS’ …USE YOUR REPTILIAN BRAIN
EAT YOUR MOM’S CORPSE SHE DIED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH SUSTENANCE
PRETEND YOU HAVE JUST AROSE FROM THE SEA
NO “MULTICELLULAR TRAITS”….. USE YOUR SYMBIOTIC MITOCHONDRIA
REPRODUCE ASEXUALLY, YOU’RE YOUR OWN PARENT
PRETEND IT’S 2BYA
NO “LIFE.” USE FUNDAMENTAL PHYSICAL FORCES TO FORM SPHERICAL OBJECTS REVOLVING AROUND ONE ANOTHER IN SPACE.
FUSE HYDROGEN INTO HELIUM USING GRAVITATIONAL PRESSURE TO PRODUCE HEAT AND LIGHT.
PRETEND IT’S 4.5BYA.
STABILIZE INTO EQUILIBRIA
NO “MATTER”. EXIST IN THE VOID WITHOUT PURPOSE OR MEANING.
THERE IS NO “YOU”, ONLY THE VAST CONCEPT OF NOTHING.
TIME DOES NOT EXIST.
Nobody likes to be talked down to by a handwritten banner, especially one that insinuates that anyone without a WiFi signal will be forced to “live,” rather than engage with their electronics. The world was a better place in 1993, according to this sign. It so, then it follows that life was at its truest form before life even began.
Which brings us to restaurants and their uneasy embrace of technology. A number have already declared they will kick out Google Glass wearers and cell phone users. Some chefs have insisted that photographing their food “robs” them of their “intellectual property.” And one restaurant in particular blamed smartphones for its slow service, using a lot of anecdotal evidence disguised as research. Oddly, this “message” was delivered in the most “new media” fashion possible, via a (now deleted) Craigslist “rant.”
Here’s a portion of it.
26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.
14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.
9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.
27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.
Even if everything presented as fact were indeed true, the restaurant blames its service issues on its customers, rather than realizing two things: 1.) a comparison of two nights roughly a decade apart is hardly evidence of anything and 2.) there’s a whole lot of positive aspects that are being ignored out of concern over turn time.
As a common venue for celebratory dinners, birthdays, and bachelorette parties, TAO Downtown does take lot of photos, Duxbury says, but that’s “absolutely not” bad for the restaurant. “Those pictures go up on social media, some of them instantly on Instagram and Facebook, and it gets us out there,” he says.
Other chefs, waiters, and restaurateurs echo this sentiment. John Kapetanos, owner of Ethos in Manhattan’s Midtown East—the same neighborhood as the anonymous Craigslist poster—says maybe 10 percent of his customers ask the waiter to take a group photo; it’s a favor that takes less than a minute and doesn’t slow down service. Over the 12 years Ethos has been in business, Kapetanos says cellphones have added maybe five to 10 minutes to the average table time, but that he doesn’t mind as long as diners at one table aren’t bothering those at another. Jean-Marte, a waiter at a French restaurant in Midtown who declined to give his last name, concurs that taking photos of customers doesn’t slow his stride. He adds that smartphones can even be quite helpful when dealing with foreign tourists who don’t understand the menu. “It’s easier for them to go on the website or on Yelp, and they can show you a picture and say, ‘This is what I want,’ ” he explains.
Going further, the march of technology has sped up other aspects of food service, including inputting orders and settling bills.
It’s just part of our lives now,” says Michael Scelfo, chef and owner of the recently opened Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Back in the old days, if you wanted to pay with your credit card, someone had to physically go and carbon-copy it and write information on it. Now they can swipe it on their phone tableside. How much time does that save?”
The fear that technology controls our lives rather than vice versa is omnipresent and moves towards smart cars, connected household devices and Google Glass only feed into that. It’s very tempting for even those who tout technological advances to express apprehension about the perceived progression towards a more introverted society that interacts mainly through third parties. This fear isn’t entirely misplaced, but the real question is whether it should actually be viewed with trepidation.
Technology has changed the way we communicate, but it hasn’t eliminated communication. The supposed dearth of face-to-face interaction can be traced all the way back to dated pursuits like reading newspapers or playing chess. Nothing really changes. We may find more people blundering down the street staring at a phone screen rather than the sidewalk in front of them, but extrapolating carelessness and (yes) rudeness into some sort of societal collapse isn’t an original idea, or even a recent one. Anything beneficial is ignored to portray an army of dead-eyed techno-captives ruining the world, one Tweet/Instagram/Facebook update at a time. It’s not any truer now than it was back when people stood shoulder-to-shoulder staring intently at the newspaper in front of them.