Social norms and cell phones

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.


A small part of the celebration was focussed on the younger ice hockey
teams, including the Finnish under-18 women’s team, who came third in
their world champsionship this year. Each player’s name and number
was called out, and one by one the girls walked out onto the stage, to
applause from the audience.

I kid you not, more than half, and maybe as many as three quarters, of
the girls were *on their phones* as they walked on stage, and stayed
on them for the entire duration of their presenation. Not actively
talking on them, but holding them in front of themselves at arm’s
length. I’m not actually sure what they were doing. Taking photos or
videos of the crowd? Video chatting with friends or family? I’m not
sure it matters. My point is: holy hell, to anybody my age or older
it is just incredibly, deeply, unquestionably obvious that it is
totally inappropriate to be, in any sense, on your phone while you are
being presented in front of your country as an elite athlete.
Obviously, today’s teenagers feel otherwise, and can’t or won’t stop
sharing their lives via their phone even when traditional standards of
decorum would demand it. This got me thinking about the importance of
young people’s attitudes toward technology.

When I was in high school, there was one girl in my class whose
parents didn’t let her watch television. Today, I very rarely watch
any television at all, and I bet if that girl’s parents explained to me
now their reasons for making that decision way back then, I’d agree
with a lot of them. But at the time, I and every single one of my
classmates thought this was total madness. Way, way worse than the
kid whose family didn’t have a microwave oven because his mother
thought they were bad for you. The girl who never watched television
didn’t seem to think that this restriction on her life was all that
bad, but I’m sure everybody else felt terribly sorry for her, and was
sure she didn’t understand what she was missing. When you’re thirteen,
and you’ve spent just about every day in your entire life using and
enjoying a particular piece of technology, and every other thirteen
year old kid you know has done the same, then there’s just no amount
of rational argument any adult can present which will convince you
that that technology is actually bad. It’s just not how young minds
work. I think about how much time today’s young kids spend
entertaining themselves watching YouTube videos on tablets, and I
realise that it won’t be long at all until the world is full of young
adults for whom all the companies and devices and services that I think
are ruining the internet will be associated with happy childhood
memories. There’s nothing I can say or do which will stop this. When
the minds of the young are lost, what hope can there be for the future?

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