Can’t fill silence with technology


Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.

The 21st century so far has provided a gold mine of technology. Never before has communication, transportation and the access of information been so incredibly efficient.

This invariably has led to advances in humanity’s standard of living — I can only imagine where we’ll be in 10 years. What is annoyingly clear, however, is the way smartphones are pervading social life. The likes of iPhones and other smartphones are penciling themselves into daily routines, and it’s beginning to be excessive.

Here’s an example: just the other day I was at my pal’s house hanging out with about six other of my fellow chaps. The problem is, we weren’t actually “hanging out” — at least not by my definition. Most of the time, we were absorbed with our phones — texting, playing games, looking up sports stats — we might as well have not even gone through the trouble of getting together.

It’s like there’s this looming fear of an uneventful minute that needs to be filled with some sort of stimulation or burst of excitement.

There’s this great scene in the film “Pulp Fiction” that puts it best. In the scene, the characters played by Uma Thurman and John Travolta stare blankly at one another for a few moments before Thurman says, “Why do we feel it’s necessary to yap about bulls**t in order to be comfortable?”

Checking one’s phone seems to be the modern way of handling these uncomfortable silences.

Texting has its place. There definitely are occasions in which a text is more appropriate than a phone call. But it has become a heresy to call people these days, which is rather unfortunate for me because I always will choose calling rather than texting. It’s a one-time, direct and simple process. I’d prefer not to engage in an unnecessary game of back-and-forth messages filled with “lol” and smiley face emoticons. It all seems so insincere and ambiguous.

To affirm you understand a point made by a previous text, a lot of people will respond with “k.” This can be taken a couple of ways — to mean you genuinely understand whatever the sender of the text said, or, it may translate to a bitter “OK, I guess. Whatever.” Reading these oblique, unclear texts becomes a game and can be an utter waste of time.

The addition of high quality cameras, Internet and social media to these portable devices of distraction has made them even more immersive. This is an unprecedented phenomenon – it’s never been so simple and accessible to document the daily happenings of our lives — and now we can share them through a social media outlet. Is this bad? Not really, but it’s interesting and is changing the way people publicly act.

The fact that you can talk to anyone on the go, wherever you are — with the exception of areas with spotty service — has altered social mannerisms. Public use of phones is being abused progressively and has begun to ruin conversations.

There are times when I’ll be engaged in a talk with a person, and they’ll abruptly start texting and tune me out, only returning their attention after sending their “important” message.

My jaw slightly drops, my eyebrows raise and I begin to wonder if they even cared about what we were discussing in the first place. It’d be the same as if I were to walk away briefly from someone mid-conversation and start chatting with another person.

It’s for this reason that I treasure hanging out with my dachshund, Zeke. Being a dog and all, he’s obviously not much of a talker. But at least I can trust he won’t be tweeting during the duration of time we hang out.

Last spring, I recall a memorable walk I took Zeke on. I don’t remember why, but I didn’t have my phone or any other sort of digital device on me. We walked to the park, I sat in the grass and Zeke skipped around aimlessly.

I began to let my mind ease as I observed the blades of grass sway silently in the wind, the fluffy clouds drifting slowly above and the heat of the sunbeams on my skin.

The serenity of it all was unobtainable through any form of technology. It was only my dog, the world and me. I sat blissfully devoid of any quick bursts of entertainment through intermittent texting or checking of my Facebook.

This reminded me the world already is interesting in itself. It doesn’t require an incessant feed of man made amusement through smartphones.

Tyler Burt is a guest columnist at The State News and a supply chain management junior. Reach him at

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