August 17, 2013

Sammi Taylor

“Is that phone an extension of your hand?”

Chances are that as a teenager, you’ve been chastised more than once for spending a little too much time with technology. Most of us would feel completely naked without our mobile phones in our jeans pocket—and a hell of a lot less safe. It’s a means of communication and entertainment, and stats show that we don’t go much more than an hour without checking for notifications or aimlessly browsing our social media. Your parents, grandparents, teachers and other significant adults in your life tell you that you’re addicted. And while you’ll constantly reply with a defiant “No, I’m not”, the thought can’t help but strike that, well, maybe you are. Maybe, technology has a little too prominent presence in your everyday life? Maybe, the 15 minutes you spent trying to choose an instagram filter could’ve been spent a little more wisely.

But let’s backtrack for a second. Constantly, Gen Y is told that their lives seem dependent on social media, texting and digital interaction.  A picture is painted of bright eyed teens that can type faster than you can speak—but whose social interaction skills with actual human beings are somewhat lacking in confidence. Because according to everyone else, we’re spending far too much time glued to our phones and computer screens, talking to people behind profile pictures and screen names.

One afternoon, I got on my usual train from Melbourne City, found a seat near the window and pulled out Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre from my bag. Engrossed in the novel for a few stops, the monotone announcer dragged me from my literary musing for a moment, when I observed something awfully ironic.

I was by far the youngest person in my carriage, and yet everyone else was on their phones.

Bar the 70 year old woman knitting a pink beanie, and the somewhat dishevelled looking man who was thoroughly intrigued by the pattern on the back of the seat in front of him.

The business man sitting next to me was answering emails, the woman across from me was chatting (very loudly) on her phone, and the woman diagonal to me was playing Candy Crush. As I continued to look around the carriage, I realised I was in the less than 10% that wasn’t concentrating on the smart phone in their lap.

Now, maybe I’m the minority of teenagers that actually read books, let alone on trains. But I couldn’t help but find it rather ironic that adults will reprimand their children for being addicted to their phones—but then go ahead and mirror the youth’s behaviour. As of last year, there were 8.8 million smart phone users in Australia, and that’s expected to exceed 13 million by the end of 2013. 65% of these users, were over the age of 24.

Let’s stop restricting the diagnosis of ‘tech addiction’ to the teens, and start branching out to Gen X and the Baby Boomers. We all need a little Candy Crush rehabilitation once in a while, and a break from the glowing screens of our iPhones. Maybe you should bring the book you’ve been meaning to finish for ages on your train ride home, or god forbid, actually make conversation with someone sitting opposite you. You might make a new friend, who I’m sure you can request to add on Facebook later.

-Sammi Taylor

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