The Media Zone

How the media make sense and nonsense of the world.

Snapshots of Smartphones and Clueless People

in Rome I saw young Romans riding Vespas in the horrific traffic, steering with one hand and speed dialing with the other.Worse, one death-wisher steered with one hand, held his phone on his thigh while he texted. Read More

Jungle out there... and here at the dining table, too!

The New York Times recently ran a piece highlighting how 'devices' are now there on the holiday dinner table along with the turkey and fixings on Thanksgiving. I'm totally with you on the point of what used to be called "rudeness", and the interpersonal gracelessness of ignoring customers, road hazards, and the walkway down below the screen....

However, your conclusion suggests "Cyberspace" as like a jungle, but I think it's more. While there are risks to be sure, the rudeness, distraction, and preoccupation with the device rather than the person - to me this is the epidemic of "device devotion" at play. Indoors. "Cyberspace" is like "phone network" - just a conduit. But the devices themselves have become the love objects, pet, helper, libido (object of "cathexis") and all sorts of things which keep one from even noticing the jungle "out there". It's precisely at the dinner table or in a store or doctor office where one would *like* to feel, as you say, like being there in flesh and blood counts. "Clueless" (but devoted, usually well-intentioned) people to be sure. Addicts, many. Socially reinforced and commercially adored as a "social" phenomenon. My take, anyhow.

I love the cartoon making the rounds online, depicting a stack of phones/devices on a restaurant table, with the caption: First one to grab their device during the meal, pays the bill. Mindfulness is a powerful thing. It's come to this....

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Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D., is Senior Editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and Emeritus Professor of Media Psychology at Cal State, Los Angeles.

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