Conversing Without a Smartphone–Is it Possible? And What are the Consequences, If Any?

Image result for photo of two people looking at a smartphone


There’s an Italian joke, “What do you call an Italian with no arms?


This came to mind the other night when I was talking with a family member and not one minute passed by before he whipped out his smartphone to show me what he was talking about.  I adjusted my eyes from his face to his phone to see the photo of the road bike he had just purchased his 10-year old son to ride on Kelly Drive.  It took me a second or two to focus.  Pretty soon we were just looking at his phone.

I wondered, do other people do this?  And do they do it a lot?  And if so, what does it do to the conversation?  Does it enhance it?  Divert it?  Change it completely?  End it?

Image result for photo of two people looking at a smartphone

I’m guessing it’s quite common, especially among millennials, but not restricted to them.

So what happens when two people are talking face to face and all of a sudden their gaze is diverted to the small screen?

My hunch is that the personal interaction is dwarfed, re-routed, or stripped of what the gaze and micro-expressions of a face reveal about what is being said and the emotional responses contained therein.  How do I know what you’re feeling if I can’t see you or if that vision is now muted by your voice only explaining what I’m looking at?  What’s more, what do I do if I can’t really see what you’re talking about?  He or she can enlarge the photo but that distorts the whole image and maybe the context.

And to reciprocate, do I take out my phone and hunt up photos to show you?  What if I don’t have photos that fit the conversation?

Image result for photo of two people looking at a smartphone


And how about a group conversation?  How do we all look at the same phone?

Image result for photo of two people looking at a smartphone

I guess we could, if we were sitting at a good angle.  The woman on the right here looks like she’s having trouble.  I say that because she’s expressionless but still trying to be a good sport.

Quite frankly, I’m at a loss to explain why it’s a good or bad idea, but my gut feeling is that a smartphone should be used as a conversational prop, not the whole scenery.


This entry was posted in communication, Social Change, Social Media, Social Media & Psychology, social media and storytelling, social media and the art of conversation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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