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The search for engagement

Do you know why everyone’s always on their phone? It’s not because their antisocial. It’s not because they are addicted to the Internet. It’s about a need for information.

Growing up, I cannot count the number of times that I would go someplace with my parents and find myself with a bunch of hours without anything specific to do. Not everyone had cable, and while I was pretty good about bringing a book to most places there just weren’t always ample opportunities for foresight.

Having the entire world at your fingertips is really powerful. Especially when you have the network to match that. I think part of the challenge for people who watch other people on their phones, in situations where it might not otherwise be rude, is the fact that not all of us boast far-flung networks of friends in disparate locations.

Did you ever have a penpal when you were a child? In elementary school, I had the bright idea of soliciting for penpals by simply sending a letter to any similar grade student at any school in a random part of the country. Once my tactic worked, my classmates wondered how I did it and I help them do the same thing.

If you can remember the feeling of getting mail when you’re a kid, then you understand why people would be engaged, when they’re able to radio from their penpals all over the world in many cases that they’ve already met in real life.

I had a penchant for reading encyclopedias as a kid as well. So carrying an encyclopedia in my pocket with seemingly unlimited volumes, delights my seven-year-old heart somewhere.

On the flipside, I spent the weekend with a good friend not too long ago. And we both agreed we wouldn’t tweet or use social media at all.

Relating to others is hard. And there are just may situations where people can feel isolated, without the others around them knowing it. Perhaps they’re selling kind of merit to that sort of awkwardness that comes from interactions that lack The sort of engagement that some of us are seeking, but I’m not entirely sure of that.

This isn’t an excuse for using your phone in inappropriate settings, or where it’s deemed to be rude to do so. The problem is we still haven’t worked out the social mores of using these kinds of tools in particular situations, so there isn’t always an explicit knowledge of when it is appropriate or when it’s not.

I’m also talking about adults, not kids. Not that the former are necessarily any better about knowing the right versus wrong time, or are any less willing to sacrifice moment to tethered to a device.

But I’m not sure that waxing poetic about moments that generally don’t come, is really something to express ire about. Ultimately if you don’t like it, speak up.