The Tech Takeover


The Tech Takeover

Nicholas DiCorato


Recent technological advancements have fueled a dramatic cultural shift in the United States. With cell phones, personal computers, laptops, and tablets now available to Americans of all income levels, their prevalence has dramatically increased. This increase is such that it would be difficult to make blanket statements about all personal tech devices. For this reason, let’s stick to the most ubiquitous and notorious of them all: the cell phone. A blessing from the gods of technology, or an irreversible curse?

According to Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans have cell phones, and 58% of Americans have smart phones. This statistic shouldn’t be too surprising– everywhere you go, people are on their phones. Americans bury their noses in their mobile devices while using public transportation, walking through the streets, driving on the highways, sitting in class, attending concerts and other performances, just about any time they lose interest in their surroundings. Using the phone used to be a matter of purpose: to call friends, family, business associates, order dinner, and so forth; these days, any time is phone time. Now, certainly some of this phone use is acceptable, useful, and ultimately beneficial; say, sending business emails on the morning bus commute, or quickly checking the weather between classes. Other times, phone use is downright silly, like in social situations. I can’t help but chuckle at the irony of ‘cell circles’ in the cafeteria, where groups of students eating lunch with friends play on their phones, uselessly squandering one of their only opportunities to relax and chat with one another. I myself am not a stickler for perfect manners, but regardless it irks me when people whip out their phones to dash off a quick text in the middle of conversations with others. In addition to being rather rude, the situation is worsened when the obsessed techie tears him or herself away from the device to rejoin the conversation with a clueless, “Sorry, what?” But hey, at least Johnny knows you’ll “brb” because you’re “having a convo rn” (or not!). Unless your wife is in labor, or unimaginable calamity will befall the earth lest that text is sent, kindly wait until your original conversation is over.

With the addition of cameras to cell phones, every American now fancies himself Ansel Adams. No, that picture of your oatmeal with “Valencia” filter is not artsy, nor is it worthy of using up office bandwidth. Contrary to popular belief, not everything needs to be captured in pixels. Fireworks celebrations, rock concerts, art museums, and sporting events are plagued with people raising their iPads and Android phones high, determined to snag a blurry photo or video clip of the spectacle. If it’s worth remembering, you’ll want to see it with your very own eyes rather than through a viewfinder or playback screen. Also, let’s not forget that sometimes snapping a picture is completely unacceptable or irrational. For instance, that “No Photography” placard next to the Rembrandt is there to preserve the art, and it’s not a gentle suggestion. Then there’s tragic occurrences like that of the Polish couple in Portugal last summer, who tumbled off a cliff to their deaths whilst taking a selfie. No elaboration needed.

It’s not likely that Americans will change their tech habits, especially given the conveniences provided by mobile devices. All I ask is for a bit of introspection before you take out that cell phone– are you using the device, or is the device using you?.