The smart smartphone social backlash

By Anne Collier

It was inevitable. The backlash is in full swing. There were the headlines and talk-show chats about digital detoxing and then the how-to books about digital sabbaths and shabbats. Some of it was fashionable, some of it fearful – all of it good if it got us to thinking about managing and not being managed by our smartphones and other digital social tools.

So now there are all kind of strategies for being present with the people around us in a physical space, which only tells me that our humanity is even more powerful than our technology. This week, the New York Times ran a very readable piece about a lot of those strategies. Please go to the article to see them all, but a few great ones families reportedly have put in place are: a designated “cellphone lockbox” (some container that, when phones are in it, doesn’t vibrate or light up – maybe better under a sofa cushion!); charging overnight in a place far away from beds (preferably where Mom or Dad wakes up if a phone’s retrieved); dinner downtime (with consequences, like extra chores for anybody whose phone is found under the table); phones left in the car when the family goes out for meals; and phone-free parties and family gatherings.

And, hey, we non-famous people have it good. Celebrities have to find polite ways to set smartphone restrictions right in their party invitations. But like the writer of the Times piece, apparently, my favorite strategy was the Smartphone Stack game for people dining together at restaurants: the first person who checks his/her phone during dinner pays everybody’s bills! The takeaway from this and all the other strategies is that they’re becoming novel strategies less and less and social norms more and more, and the other takeaway – for me, anyway – is that humanity is more powerful than technology.

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