Not so smart about your smart phone? Lost some brain cells over cellular? You may be suffering from the disease known as phonidiocy.
We all know them. Most of us probably are them - I know I am. And now we finally have a word for them. A word for the phenomenon of people being glued to the phone, all day, every day, even at the most stupid of times. It’s called phonidiocy and I am not proud to say that I too am a phonidiot.
I made up this word two days ago when I was driving in the city centre and some idiot was looking at her phone while stepping onto the road to cross it. There was no zebra crossing, no traffic lights and plenty of traffic. Fortunately, a few cars honked, they stopped, she looked up, ran across the street and nobody got hurt.
She was lucky. The next time she might be hit by someone who isn’t paying attention because he too is a phonidiot and then someone will die.
We all know that this is not some surreal and nasty scene from a futuristic film. Many accidents are caused by phones, or rather the use of them, in situations where they shouldn’t be used.
While accidents, and especially deadly accidents, are the most shocking and alarming consequences of phonidiocy, there are many other worrying, mindbogglingly stupid or obnoxious effects to our non-stop use of phones.
We all know the challenges of getting our kids off their screens. We are aware of the highly addictive nature of games. We realize we spend too many hours pointlessly scrolling through social media. We get that we should do something, but instead of planning something fun to do, we throw away valuable time to watch influencers and their accounts of very mundane activities.
Accidents, addiction, lack of imagination, lack of movement, deprivation of silence; the omnipresence of phones has many implications for our lives and the way we interact with each other. But there are two consequences that I loathe more than any other when it comes to phonidiocy: lack of manners and the lost art of storytelling.
Lack of manners
I am sure we all have the experience of being in a conversation with someone who, upon hearing a beep coming from their phone, neglects you and what you were saying entirely, to check the message that has just come in. I think that many people agree that it is extremely rude, yet many of us have come to accept it as the new social code.
Sure, there are exceptions. I have a rule that, unless I am at a doctor’s office or at a concert, I always pick up the phone when my husband or children call. I know it’s hysterical, especially as most phone calls are not urgent and do not surpass the level of ‘what’s for dinner’ or ‘I got a B for maths’.
Apart from them, I really try to focus on the person I am with and not look at my phone. I am not the CEO or president of anything other than my family’s kitchen and surely do not need to be reachable 24/7.
Still, I too always have my phone in view. It’s ridiculous and so insulting to the person I am with. As if I am not content enough with just their company. Plus, there is a rather misplaced arrogance involved: am I so important that I must see my messages straight away? Do I consider myself to be that indispensable? Of course not. It’s a disease. It’s phonidiocy.
The lost art of storytelling
Related to this – and in my view even more sorrowful than rudeness – is that phones seem to have led to degenerate conversations and a deterioration of one of humanity's oldest forms of communication: storytelling.
Whatever happened to a good, uninterrupted dialogue or a deep conversation between friends? An exchange based on ideas we have developed and knowledge we have gained over the course of many years. They have become rare and seem to be almost non-existent, especially among the young.
There are many causes for that. Information overload to name one. We are drowning in the availability of knowledge, so we ignore information to just stay sane. Or the deeply polarised society that doesn’t allow for openminded dialogue in case of opposing points of view but only for very black-and-white opinions. Void of solid argumentation (topics that require dedicated articles).
But another cause, in my modest view, is the mobile phone, or any screen, for that matter. We no longer need to remember anything. Our smart phones give us direct access to all the information in the world. Don’t know something? Google it. Want to find information about someone or something? Launch an internet search.
Add to that that our phones have become our external hard drives. We don’t need to know anything, nor do we need to remember a thing. We simply need to know where to look for information. Our brains are changing from data centres to simple roadmaps.
That means, at least in our household, that every conversation is accompanied by a phone to show a picture or add facts. Even for the simplest of things our children especially go and grab a phone. We ask them to describe something and they pick up their phones to show us.
We say no. Ask them to tell us about it, find the words, use language, speak. Language can be so rich and descriptive of all nuances; it pains me to see the pauperisation of it. But the children don’t care for it. It takes too much time and effort, and they opt for fast and simple.
By allowing our phones to fill in the gaps, we also close off our brains to a more imaginative and creative side. We are forced to think in templates instead of letting our imaginations run free and wild. And that in turn has a limiting effect on the quality of our conversations and the stories we share.
It’s a disease, it’s called phonidiocy and many of us suffer from it.
What a pity.