What does it look like to the other person when you can’t put your phone down while having a conversation? This video nails it.
Try tearing young people away from their digital devices for a few days and see what happens. Insane? Well for a little over a year now, we’ve been conducting a series of TechTimeout experiments at high schools across the country to see if they can survive. (As you might expect, many cannot.)
I work closely with the Executive Director of the program, Marty Riemer (who also directed my documentary, Sleeping with Siri and we continue to be fascinated by the challenge. On one hand, it’s endlessly entertaining to talk to young people about how they use technology (have your heard about Avocado?), and one the other, we’re blown away at how intermingled smartphones and tablets have become with each and every aspect of our lives. (For example, as more and more teachers begin to use computers to assign and track homework and attendance, it’s less and less likely they’ll entertain our TechTimeout idea in their classrooms.) And believe me, it’s not just “all these young whipper snappers” who are addicted to their phones. Often it’s the PARENTS who raise hell and havoc about their kid doing a digital blackout for any period of time—because they like having their kids tethered to them at all times. (In addition to being able to text Johnny the new pickup time from soccer practice and a grocery list, it’s handy to know the exact whereabouts of your teenage daughter…).
The most amazing (and obvious) revelation is that cellphones are barely phones at all. In fact, rarely does anyone speak into the thing, instead they are taking our eyes off the road, making us constantly check for mail, distracting us from our work, and allowing us to change plans at the last minute, thus eliminating our ability to plan—or stick to one.
I’m no Luddite—there’s a huge upside to technology: our “Smart”phones have replaced fax machines and calculators and gaming stations and cameras and paper maps and even the library! But this also means that we’re now carrying around these lost-icons in our pockets. (Luckily, your Telex/Nintendo/TV/typewriter only weighs a few ounces). But with this great power…comes great responsibility.
With this notion in mind, Marty and I decided to create a PSA about the subject—and we hope the spot will make you ponder, laugh, and perhaps “Put That Thing Away” on a regularly scheduled basis. (Or take a TechTimeout!) I can tell you one thing: they’re not going to put themselves into sleep mode anytime soon, and once GoogleGlass and the iWatch are strapped to our bodies…there won’t be an off-switch.