Drawing a line on dependence

THERE was an interesting picture posted on a huge screen at a newspaper conference in Sydney this week.

It showed a dozen or so people standing on a train platform.

The picture formed part of a presentation from Twitter.

In the background of this picture was a man – his face highlighted by a circle for impact in the presentation.

The question was asked… what’s wrong with this man?

Well, nothing. He looked totally normal.

The point was that every other person in the picture was transfixed to their mobile phone screen while the man in the back was actually taking in the world around him.

And he’s the ‘odd one’ out?

These little hand-held gadgets have wormed their way into our lives, feeding on our ‘leisure’ time.

The presenter went on to tell the story that he and his partner were out to dinner the other night and the four people at the table next to them spent the night on their smartphones.

Such happenings adds a bit of weight to a statement made by an earlier presenter that the internet had actually changed human nature.

The moral of the train platform picture reminded me of an online video story I stumbled across not so long ago that made for interesting viewing.

It was about a café who did an experiment to see how attached people actually were to their smartphones.

After each customer gave a coffee order, the waiter revealed that if they agreed to hand over their mobile phone for the time they spent in the café, they could have the drink for free.

The reactions from people were priceless.

Oh, the apprehension around handing over that smartphone for 30 or 40 minutes at best.

Some people were horrified by the notion of having to go ‘unconnected’ for that time.

Others asked ‘you will give it back, right?’ before handing the phone over with a look suggesting it was akin to giving away their first born.

Really, for a free coffee, c'mon?

What this illustrates is that the smartphone has become king in the lives of those who own them.

Disagree? Think about those awful times you thought you had lost that phone? Got pretty antsy there until you found it… right?

These little hand-held gadgets have wormed their way into our lives, feeding on our ‘leisure’ time.

Like the scene in the restaurant outlined by the presenter, where once people talked, now they tap.

There was a time where we actually asked someone a question to get an answer, now we grab our phone and ask everyone’s good friend Google.

We once actually walked down the passage and spoke to a partner – now it’s easier to send an SMS.

Don’t get me wrong, the world would be a far more difficult place is smartphones weren’t available for business and leisure. But where should we draw the line?

What could you do with the time spent on Twitter or Facebook on that phone?

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