Complaining About Cell Phone Usage Makes You Sound Ridiculous

We live in a world more open and connected than ever before. People globally have conversations with others in their field or with those who share their passion, hobby or art with ease. Collaboration on projects and ideas of all types is happening at an unprecedented scale. Communication among smart, active people has never been better.

But don’t tell that to some people nostalgic for a past that never actually existed, who seem to ignore all the barriers technology has broken down in communications and connection. What am I talking about? The anti-technology or altogether unhappy individuals who believe mobile devices are to blame for their own lack of connecting with others.

It seems like about once a month I’ll be out with someone who will, without a hint of irony, complain that “people don’t talk to each other in person anymore.” I say irony as this happens during a conversation with me. So I’m here conversing with a human, who complains people don’t converse face to face “like they used to.” I typically let them continue their rant and won’t interrupt with the obvious “what do you think we’re doing right now?” Anyway, it will progress to hearing complaints about how cell phones have “destroyed” conversation or public interactions. Which is of course ridiculous.

Most people that you’d actually want to spend some of your precious few moments alive conversing with have the self control to be present and talk with you while being together. If not you probably should seek out new friends. Which is why when I recently saw this story shared from BuzzFeed, I was compelled to write this post.

The story, given the over-the-top title of “the death of conversation” in the typical BuzzFeed click-bait fashion, shares pictures of humans around London on their mobile devices. Of course it doesn’t show what they’re doing on their devices. They could be reading a novel, studying for an exam, or engaged in some other type of productive task that is subjectively better from a personal development standpoint than a conversation. We don’t know, because there is no context to the pictures other than the editorializing by the photographer who has no idea of what is happening in each photo.

So we’re given images like this, positioned to be negative, when again we have no idea what they’re up to, what type of day they’ve had, their past or even their aptitude to be a social / extroverted creature.


The story is presented, similarly to the complaining by people I’ve heard before, as if every human should constantly be actively engaged with the other humans. Because that’s a world that existed in the past, before mobile devices like cell phones.

Except it’s not. People always found ways to consume information on the go, as this picture of commuters reading their newspapers on a train in Philadelphia circa 1955 — decades before the invention of that grossly antisocial device: the smartphone:

Standing Room Only

But sure, blame the smartphone. Again as we have seen before people throwing all society’s issues (such as the completely misguided “internet addiction”) on symptoms, not causes of problems. Because it’s so much easier to point that out than treat any real issues anyone might have.

Maybe this photographer should also photograph families inside their houses glued to their TV screens:

image credit: Shutterstock

Yet somehow the above zombie-like state is socially acceptable and it’s fine for people to throw away huge percentages of their lives here, yet being a part of an active, participatory life and computing on the go should be demonized.  What the luddites always ignore is that your phone can be an enabler for your success and make communication easier and better, allowing you to have a more mobile lifestyle, be a world traveler with ease, etc.

Like at any other point in our history, it’s up to you to seek balance in your life surrounding usage of technology and do so in a way that acts harmoniously with your environment. Having been an early adopter of mobile computing since Palm Pilot & Windows CE devices, long before Androids and iPhones existed, I have personally and professional enjoyed a better life with the assistance of technology for a long time. We have the entire accessible universe of information in our pockets, the ability to speak to our entire industry from a plane ride and share intimate moments with the people most important to us who are thousands of miles away. This is amazing and unprecedented. Of course, a balance exists between mobile computing and looking up to experience your surroundings. But that’s a personal question to answer and in fact like with anything those who are self-actualized moderate this behavior in a way that makes sense.

The people complaining not only sound ridiculous, but are part of the ‘everything is amazing and nobody’s happy‘ crowd. They should probably work on turning that pessimism around.