Talk to actual friends – not imaginary, electronic ones

Students from Scoil an Linbh Íosa, Galway experienced the musical magic of the Gamelan – a traditional Indonesian orchestral instrument – at the Galway Gamelan Experience at the Rowning Club where Mayor of Galway, Cllr Frank Fahy,tried his hand. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure.
Students from Scoil an Linbh Íosa, Galway experienced the musical magic of the Gamelan – a traditional Indonesian orchestral instrument – at the Galway Gamelan Experience at the Rowning Club where Mayor of Galway, Cllr Frank Fahy,tried his hand. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure.

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Imagine you’re having lunch with someone and, in the middle of their story – boring or riveting – you produced a book from your pocket and started to read it.

Half-listening and nodding in mock understanding, you’re actually flicking through the pages under the table and not really hearing a single word being said.

The truth is you simply wouldn’t even think of doing that – so why is it okay then to start googling on your phone?

We all do it; a study carried out last year by the US-based by the Pew Research Centre found that 89% of mobile phone owners admitted using their phones during the last social gathering they attended.

But they weren’t happy about it; 82% of adults felt that the way they used their phones in social settings hurt the conversation.

US Professor Sherry Turkle – author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age – referred to those findings in a recent piece on just this topic for the New York Times.

And she painted a bleak picture where, not alone were people trying to multi-task by listening and scrolling at the same time . . . they now weren’t even comfortable with themselves, without access to the phone.

The mobile has become a social crutch, because a generation has grown up with one stuck in their hand.

Prof Turkle said that college students felt they’ve perfected the ability to look somebody in the eye and type on their phones at the same time.

“They say it’s a skill they mastered in middle school when they wanted to text in class without getting caught. Now they use it when they want to be both with their friends and, as some put it, ‘elsewhere’,” she said.

And make no mistake – that’s a skill for sure; being in constant contact with the world is not necessarily a bad thing.

But there are consequences too; the phone, the computer, the internet, Skype, Facetime and a million other apps mean we can talk all the time, anytime, anywhere to someone – there’s nothing special about actually meeting up with them anymore.

But texting is not talking – half the time it’s not even English – and whatever else they do, iPhones don’t make eye contact; they don’t do empathy; they can’t offer consolation in terms of a gesture or a hug.

Emojies aren’t actual emotions – they’re just funny little cartoon faces that fill out a text when you can’t think of anything else to say.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.