Smartphone: The Ultimate People Repellent

Photo by the_toe_stubber from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Last week, I realized that the smartphone is the ultimate anti-social device.

Sure, you can be all social, checking Facebook, tweeting and checking in to venues, but the paradox is that your smartphone makes you look like unapproachable IRL.

And by you, I mean me.

The week before SXSW, I attended a social gathering. There were about a hundred or so people there, milling around chatting with each other. Looking at some photos taken at the event, I found myself in the crowd, standing alone stabbing at my iPhone.

I noticed the same problem on my trip to Austin. Before I left Portland, we were shuffled off our plane for mechanical difficulties, i.e. there was a lightbulb out in the cockpit and no one could find a replacement. Go figure.

As a shared annoyance, airline travel difficulty makes for a great social icebreaker because misery loves company.

Still, many of us, stood idly by in the gate area poking our phones, rather than commiserating about the woes of air travel.

Actually, I made an effort once I realized how many people were doing this, and in so doing, got my first hands-on with a Kindle, which incidentally is very slick in person. The photos I’ve seen online do it absolutely no justice.

Anyway, I’m not the only one who’s noticed that smartphones make IRL more distracted and potentially less interesting.

It’s paradoxical because apps like foursquare ostensibly help you connect with friends IRL, but they simultaneously limit the ability to find new ones IRL.

Another aside, this is a great use case for the auto-checkin app I’ve been building in my head. That’s a discussion for another day.

I guess at some events, the smartphone provides some solace if you’re there alone. I know I use it that way to take the edge off the hallmark of geekdom, i.e. nervous in social situations. This only furthers the problem by making me seem aloof and unapproachable, and geeky, which could be a good thing.

Still, I can’t help but think it’s not a good thing, and it seems to be par for the course among young people, who congregate in packs, furiously pounding out texts on their phones.

So, is social networking making you anti-social? Or am I just a hopeless tool?

Or both?

Find the comments.




  1. i'm going with hopeless tool.

    i do the same thing though, especially when alone. it's something to pass the time and quell the nerves.

    why not look at it as an opportunity? you see someone on their phone, sneak a peek at what their doing or just ask them. corny? absolutely. but it's a starting point. the phone can be something to talk about initially…if it fizzles out, at least you tried. if not, it's a win. either way you come out better.

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence 🙂

    Some of the time, I'm just lazy, but other times, I make an effort. I love the irony though.

  3. Thanks for the vote of confidence 🙂

    Some of the time, I'm just lazy, but other times, I make an effort. I love the irony though.

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