Smart phones, dumb people

Two weeks ago today, my grandson was at my house in his second last week of school for the term. We were sitting on my back porch at about 3:30pm and I was watching over him while he was doing his homework. He was working on math and he looked up at me and said, “Nana, what is seven times fourteen?” Without thinking, without even a moment of hesitation, I picked up my iPhone, opened the calculator and typed the sum in. I gave him the answer and satisfied, he wrote it down.

I realised I had just done something so incredibly wrong. Firstly, I had given him the answer to his homework – something he should have been able to work out himself. But the thing I was more horrified at was that I know how to work that sum out in my head. I know exactly how to get to the answer – and I can. But instead, I picked up my phone, typed in the sum and found out that way.

Another two weeks earlier, I had been at a picnic in the park event with some friends. We were enjoying a lovely Brisbane afternoon when, at about 2pm, the clouds rolled in and we began to hear thunder. At that moment, three of us (including myself), reached into our handbags, pulled out our phones and checked the weather.

We could see the weather, we could feel the weather, but without our phones telling us the weather, we couldn’t draw a logical conclusion. This made me realise something. Our technology is taking away our intelligence. In fact, we’ve become just dumb people with smart phones.

It is sad, that even though we have education, life experience, history and general knowledge, we still feel safer knowing that we can pick up technology and find our answers there. It is like we’ve lost faith in ourselves that we can make up our own minds and make the right decisions.

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Yesterday, I typed into Google, “dumb people, smart phones” and it turns out someone has made an entire story about it and turned it into a video. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful things I have ever listen to and I found the transcription online too. So today, I’m sharing it with you.

It goes like this;

I have 422 friends yet I am lonely
I speak to all of them everyday yet none of them really know me
The problem I have sits in the space in-between
Looking into their eyes or at a name on a screen

I took a step back and opened my eyes
I looked round and realised
This media we call social is anything but
when we open our computers and it’s our doors we shut

All this technology we have it’s just an illusion
Community, companionship, a sense of inclusion
When you step away from this device of delusion
You awaken to see a world of confusion

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A world where we’re slaves to the technology we mastered
Where information gets sold by some rich, greedy bastard
A world of self-interest, self-image, self-promotion
Where we all share our best bits but leave out the emotion

We’re at our most happy with an experience we share
But is it the same if no one is there?
Be there for your friends and they’ll be there too
But no one will be if a group message will do

We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation
We pretend not to notice the social isolation
We put our words into order till our lives are glistening
We don’t even know if anyone is listening

Being alone isn’t the problem let me just emphasise
If you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise
You’re being productive and present not reserved and reclused
You’re being awake and attentive and putting your time to good use

So when you’re in public and you start to feel alone
Put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone
You don’t need to stare at your menu or at your contact list
Just talk to one another, learn to co-exist

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I can’t stand to hear the silence of a busy commuter train
When no one wants to talk for the fear of looking insane
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
To engage with one another and look into someone’s eyes.

We’re surrounded by children who since they were born
Have watched us living like robots and think it’s the norm
It’s not very likely you’ll make world’s greatest Dad
If you can’t entertain a child without using an iPad

When I was a child I’d never be home
I’d be out with my friends, on our bikes we’d roam
I’d wear holes in my trainers and graze up my knees
Or build our own clubhouse high up in the trees

Now the park is so quiet it gives me a chill
See no children outside and the swings hanging still
There’s no skipping, no hopscotch, no church and no steeple
We’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people

So look up from your phone, shut down the display
Take in your surroundings, make the most of today
Just one real connection is all it can take
To show you the difference that being there can make

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Be there in the moment as she gives you the look
That you remember forever as when love overtook
The time she first held your hand or first kissed your lips
The time you first disagreed but still loved her to bits

The time you don’t have to tell hundreds of what you’ve just done
Because you want to share this moment with just this one.
The time you sell your computer so you can buy a ring
For the girl of your dreams who is now the real thing

The time you want to start a family and the moment when
You first hold your little girl and get to fall in love again
The time she keeps you up at nights and all you want is rest
And the time you wipe away the tears as your baby flees the nest

The time your baby girl returns with a boy for you to hold
And the time he calls you Grandad and makes you feel real old
The time you take in all you’ve made when you’re giving life attention
And how you’re real glad you didn’t waste it by looking down at some invention

The time you hold your wife’s hand, sit down beside her bed.
You tell her that you love her, lay a kiss upon her head.
She then whispers to you quietly as her heart gives a final beat
That she’s lucky she got stopped by that lost boy in the street

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But none of these times ever happened. You never had any of this
When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss

So look up from your phones, shut down those displays
We have a finite existence, a set number of days
Don’t waste your life getting caught in the net
because when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret

I am guilty too of being part of this machine
this digital world we are heard but not seen
where we type as we talk and read as we chat
where we spend hours together without making eye-contact

So don’t give in to a life where you follow the hype
Give people your love, don’t give them your “like”
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind

Look up from your phone, shut down the display
Stop watching this video, live life the real way.

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I know I’m going to start thinking about the way technology rules my life, and if you are reading this right now, I think you should too.

Tell us, do you feel the same way? Does technology rule too much of your life? Do you sometimes feel like you’re reverting into a dumb person with a smart phone?


You can watch the video here: