There are over 2.5 billion cell phone users in the world, making mobile devices the most widely spread modern technology. My absolute favorite subplot of this whole cell phone revolution is what’s happening to the concept of “being alone” in public settings.
Whether walking down a dark street at night, waiting at a restaurant for a date to show up, or in a business meeting, playing with our phones has become more than a socially acceptable way to pass the time. It often makes us feel like we’re not alone, but at peace, safe and connected to our a social circle, unconsciouly telling those around us: I have friends, hundreds of them, they just aren’t right here (think of those mildly creative Verizon commercials). Because of this, for many playing with our phones has become more of a comfort than a compulsion, whether texting, Googling, sifting through contacts, or – my personal favorite – randomly pressing buttons to look busy (it’s okay, we’ve all been there!).
Take a close look next time you’re out in public at the way others around you are interacting with their phones, when they would otherwise be alone. Chances are they aren’t exhibiting typical lonely behavior, but rather laughing, smiling, scowling, or otherwise emotionally vested in their miniature digital best friends. It can be quite fun to witness.
While this is just one of the many ways mainstream technology has changed social dynamics, it’s without a doubt my favorite.