There’s something wrong with this picture, and we all know it. Yesterday I spent fifteen minutes sharing a silent carriage with bored commuters, their faces screen-lit, eyes glued to the screen, fingers racing across screens to complete a level or swiping lazily down a Facebook news feed. Emerging from the metro I watched as a girl, walking up the street with her eyes locked firmly on the screen of a smart phone, walked directly into an old couple before cutting off a bicycle and walking head first into a traffic light pole. At lunch I observed the new eating ritual unravel; ‘check in’ to the restaurant on Facebook or Foursquare, snap the meal and post it on Instagram and then give conversation a half-hearted attempt before picking up the phone again to scan aimlessly over what other people are doing in that moment.
The symptoms of ‘smart phone addiction’ are poignantly explored in the video I Forgot My Phone (below), which was watched by almost 40 million people, probably on their smart phones. Short films, memes, cartoons and advertisements overflow with self-deprecating observations about our nasty new habits, and Coca Cola is the latest to contribute with a video entitled The Social Media Guard (below), which proposes a plastic collar, not unlike the one used to keep animals from licking their wounds, to help us unplug.
There is no doubt that Social Media and the Smartphone have made our lives easier in a way that we never imagined; we can connect frequently and easily with those who are far from us, keep up to date with friends’ lives even if we’re can’t meet physically, share thoughts, moments and images at the click of a button, and never be out of contact.
However, this technology has not only filled a void or satisfied a need but it has also created the need while satisfying it. The more useful, practical, entertaining and fulfilling the social media experience becomes, the more dependent we become on it, and so goes the self-fulfilling cycle of a new-wave consumerism in which we are continuously offered something life-changing, gobble it up without pausing to wonder if it’s the kind of change we actually want, and then ask for more.
Short of deleting all your apps and accounts and throwing out your phone, there’s little you can do to escape this new scene completely. So deeply ingrained in our social and work practices, to escape social media completely would be no small loss… that is to say, you will miss out. For the success that it is experiencing, it seems equally unlikely that the industry will self regulate; we are hooked and they will take advantage, end of story. And so, as with cigarettes and fast food, the task of moderation falls on our own shoulders, and from a sick state of necessity, we may need to occasionally fast and diet.
I Forgot My Phone
Coca Cola Advertisement – The Social Media Guard