With the same pomp, circumstance and anticipation as with its predecessors, the latest iPhone was introduced earlier today. Along with it, Apple’s latest new gadget, the Apple Watch. By every measure, Apple continues to be the experts in building marketing hype around its products unlike no other. True, Samsung is a major rival and has taken a big bite out of Cupertino, but when it comes to brand loyalty and consumer identity, Apple still reigns supreme.
A few years ago, I decided to stand in a queue to buy the second-generation iPad when it was first released (it was kinda fun, but I wouldn’t do it again). It was during the two hours or so that I was in line that I was met with the generational difference between millennials and Generation X (my generation). I was talking to a fellow in his late 20s or so who was, like me, an Apple enthusiast. Our discussion turned to television. He said he doesn’t even own one.
“Why would I pay $500 for something that only does one thing?” he said.
And that’s when it hit me. Everyone younger than me wants every gadget to perform several tasks. I get it, to a degree. But at the same time, we’re going to reach a tipping point where we realize certain products are best when they do just one thing.
Further, I might be an old fart, but I have never really enjoyed watching movies, sports or TV shows while crouched over my iPad or computer screen. Same goes for phones. Converting entertainment that was once enjoyed in a relaxing, comfortable environment into a self-contained, always-on-the-go fast food is hardly my idea of progress. But this is the world being built for and happily populated by millennials.
Generation X is giving way to a generation lost in space; in its own space. Every walk is now spoiled by heads tilted downward, staring at glowing screens. Every quiet, personal moment has turned into an opportunity to make a phone call, play a video game or send a text message. Even the relative privacy of a public restroom is encroached by someone in a stall—in a stall!—talking on the phone.
Now, I’m not some anachronistic Luddite who fears technology, innovation and change. I tend to embrace it. At the same time, though, I don’t believe in turning everything into a multitasking device that robs me of my own cognitive processes and every waking moment into an opportunity to fidget with a phone. That, along with the complete and total abdication of manners and etiquette, is what bothers me about the smartphone generation. We’re turning over all these thought processes we deem too trivial, too pedantic for our big, intellectual brains. But what’s replacing it? Scholarly research? Learning a second language? Uh-uh. Cat videos. Instead memorizing simple, useful information like phone numbers and driving routes, we’re cluttering our brains with cat videos.
We need to get smarter about how we use smartphones. Despite our self-absorbed delusions, we are hardly emulating the Sci-Fi future we think we are. In our minds, we think we’re Star Trek. Sorry, dude on the public toilet at work. Captain Kirk, you ain’t. In reality? We’re becoming the sedentary gluttons of Wall-E. We are becoming a society of self-silo’d individuals who’d rather sacrifice human interaction in favor of staring at a glowing rectangle. Don’t believe me? Look around, right now. Where are you as you’re reading this?
Here’s your cat video.