The smartphone has made us dumb

Dumb in more ways than one

Going to a restaurant with friends is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. But if it happens to be with smartphone-fanatic friends, then such a trip is not suitable for the weak-hearted. I had to learn this the hard way.

At a recent outing, when my friends and I arrived at the restaurant everybody immediately laid their phones in front of them on the table. This practice, I learned, was “in.” Fair enough, having a phone in your pocket while seated can be an inconvenience.

Conversation was quick to rise at first — but only five minutes into dinner, everyone’s eyes were fixated on their lap. Couple that with vigorous hand movements and the table vibrating every 30 seconds, I found myself in an awkward situation.

What zoned out my friends was “only” text messaging, they said. Maintaining an interesting conversation seemed impossible as they would shoot a casual glance up only to return to texting seconds later. Peeking over my friend’s shoulder to see what imperative topic deserved such undivided attention, I saw her type a single string of text.


As the waiter trotted along with our meals, I thought, “Good, this will distract them from their phones.” But this instead prompted a photo-shoot: flashes, pouts, and puckered-up poses near plates of salad.

These pictures, I learned, were going on Twitter so that “followers” would know what my friends were eating for dinner. After all, how would life be complete without notifying your virtual friends across the world that you are having fried cabbage with ginger dressing?

I was quite shocked when one excited fellow in our party demanded 20 seconds of silence for his phone to “Shazam” a song playing the background. This application can identify the title of any song by inputting a sample of the soundtrack. But is it not more suitable to just ask the waiter or a friend?

I thought I had seen the last of it when the bill finally arrived. But out came the phones again, in perfect synchronization, this time to perform the brutal calculation of adding 20 percent tip to a $90 bill and splitting it five ways.

The icing on the cake, however, was using a Maps application to find the way back to campus. Never mind the fact that we walked to the restaurant in the first place. …Was nobody paying attention on the way over?

While you might be inclined to suggest this little story is an isolated event, I believe it is the type of behavior our society is moving towards.

The smartphone is a fantastic device with useful functions, but the blatant and extensive misuse of it has wiped out all sense of common sense. With so much time spent on virtual socializing, it is no surprise that social skills are becoming increasingly non-existent in today’s world.

The dominance of the smartphone is more worrying. How tapping a tiny screen to launch 2-D birds out of slings can generate a multi-million dollar enterprise is well beyond my understanding. Applying fancy filters to rubbish pictures and branding it “photography” will soon eradicate the art. And substituting mental math with a calculator for simple arithmetic is just plain lazy.

The dominance of the smartphone shows no sign of slowing down. The average adult between the ages of 18 to 24 sends over 1,630 text messages a month, or more than three texts per waking hour.

When an entire generation feels “lost” when a phone is out of battery, or “completely disconnected” when the internet has a momentary glitch, it might be time to ask who the owner is and who is the device.

All I know is that the next time I go to dinner with friends it will be with one condition: the phones stay away.