I sat in a crowded waiting room the other day and noticed a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common. Literally every person in the room, with the exception of yours truly, was on their smartphone.
All eyes were cast downward on tiny mobile screens; no one acknowledged anyone else in the room. It seemed clear my queue mates preferred to text someone in another location rather than strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to them. In fact, I suspect they were on their phones to avoid talking to their neighbor.
A man dressed in a gorilla suit could’ve walked down the hallway and nobody would have noticed. (But what a cool Snapchat post it would’ve been…)
What else can we expect when 77 percent of all American adults have a mobile phone? That updated statistic was provided by Pew Research this summer on the 10th anniversary of the launch of the iPhone.
Some adults in the waiting room gave their mobile devices to their children to keep the kids occupied, and it did the trick. I guess Angry Birds is the new Highlights magazine for today’s waiting rooms.
And who wouldn't be entertained by mobile apps like "Princess Salon" where you can apply make-up on a princess, style her hair or even pop her pimples? Or the app "Show Your Disney Side," where you paste your face on familiar Disney characters. It’s pretty fun to see what you look like as a pirate or one of Snow White’s sidekicks.
Mothers I know have no concerns about loaning their smartphones to their preschoolers even if the kids occasionally make errant calls or mistakenly order a pepperoni pizza.
Other people, however, it seems would rather lend their toothbrush to another person than their personal digital communication device.
I once needed to make an urgent call home and asked a friend if I could use her cell. She hesitated, and before handing me the phone, scrolled through several photos and texts. I couldn’t help but wonder what she didn’t want me to see.
Obviously many people have private information stored on their phone, from texts to credit card numbers. But according to information from Pew Research, only 28 percent of smartphone owners lock their phone or take any kind of security precaution. Maybe these indifferent users don't mind if friends can see what icon and ringtones they’ve assigned to them.
After my phone's operating system crashed last year and erased contacts, photos and texts, I no longer store anything I care about on the device. I keep it locked, but my husband knows the password and I know his. Any concerns we may have don’t stem from confidentiality, but from digital incompetence.
Just this week, as we rode in the car, my husband needed to forward an email, but couldn’t because he was driving. He passed the phone to me so I could handle the email for him.
I started tapping and swiping.
"Oops, I just deleted something," I said.
"You're not messing up the settings, are you?" He asked, his grip tightening on the steering wheel. "Whatever you do, don't open spam email!"
“Just keep your eyes on the road,” I said (while I tried to find all the files I misplaced).
There are plenty of people who still don’t own a cellphone, and have no plans to get one. They don’t want the added complication. For them, life is fine just the way it is.
The Pew Research data, however, shows 46 percent of smartphone owners said their device is something “they couldn’t live without."
That's quite a statement on the modern world, but not too surprising. Just ask the man in the gorilla suit.