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The Scarlet & Black

Destroy All Smartphones


Column by Matt Kartanata

Matt Kartanata - Leina'ala Voss

Chick-Fil-A started a campaign last week to end the unforgivable sin that is using your cellphone while eating. The premise is simple: place your phone in an impenetrable cardboard prison for the duration of your meal, and if your technology-addicted fingers refrain from helping your phone escape you will receive a reward. There are no visiting hours, and if you even THINK about your phone’s deserved freedom it will spontaneously combust.  At the end of your meal you are paid for your cold heart with cold ice cream. Chick-Fil-A has a clear agenda in the war against technology — or as they frame it, a war to reinvigorate interpersonal communication.

They believe, as many others do, that people in the 21st century are too physically attached to their phones and that they should instead be physically attached to friends and strangers, as all people were throughout the first through 20th centuries.

Disregard the fact that you hate your parents and didn’t talk to them before the advent of the smartphone. Disregard how you didn’t have friends to distract you during meals to begin with, and that smartphones gave you solace when eating alone. Disregard that the last time there was a war against technology it ended with the bastardization of the word genesis into Genisys. Smartphones are destroying the world.

That’s why Chick-Fil-A wants the world to return to a simpler time. A time when the only thing to tear us from our family and friends was the explicit crushing weight of capitalism. A time when phones weren’t the smart ones, people were — that’s why literacy rates have only declined since the advent of smartphones. That’s why Jeopardy contestants of this rotten era have yet to beat out the records of the non-smartphone-dependent Ken Jennings. And that’s especially why people before smartphones discovered the cure for Polio; since the introduction of smartphones, no additional cures for Polio have been found. But the terror of smartphones is perhaps most evident in that fathers across the nation are no longer getting lost on family road trips for several hours at a time and are instead travelling efficiently due to real-time navigation rather than relying on the wit and improvisation that once ruled the road.

If you are still not convinced that smartphones have ruined the way the world interacts with one another, consider this: why settle for the instantaneous gratification of a video chat when this world was once gripped by the anticipation of telegrams that took months to arrive by boat or carriage? So what if you need to contact your mother immediately to inquire about your family history of cataracts? If the world stood for the value of clear, quick and stable forms of communication, it wouldn’t have relied on sending animals across the country to deliver messages for so many years. We appreciate process — and when it comes to smartphones, it’s all just too easy.

That’s why I stand with Chick-Fil-A. I’m lactose intolerant, so the ice cream is really a symbolic gesture anyway. But I agree that people should do away with smartphones while eating in restaurants. It is a product of modern convenience and has simply distracted from the tried and true ways of life. And while we’re at tossing out smartphones because they represent the modern era, we should also destroy any and all other markers of contemporary society that also have distracted from a simpler time of living. Take orders on paper, not iPads. Cook over coals and wood, not with gas ovens. Light up the restaurant with whale fat, not electricity. Exchange for goods and services with livestock, not money! And if you think smartphones are the only thing destroying the traditions our ancestors practiced, then you’re not even thinking about the evils of cars with more than two seats, ATMs or fast food drive-thrus. Critics will ask, “But what did you do on the toilet before smartphones?” “What about convenience is inherently wrong?” and “How will you face real-people dating instead of Tinder?” — and to them, I declare a resounding no! Everyone knows that the most real, most heartfelt conversations can only happen in fast-food restaurants without the distraction of smartphones. But also, don’t bother me while I’m eating. That’s rude.

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    Alum '12Mar 15, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    We have cause to be concerned of the social effects of newer technologies on how we interact with one another. Did you know that in the past 30 years colleges students’ empathy has measurably declined 40%, and especially in the past 10 years? There’s a lot more to be worried about too. I’ll refer you to the book “Reclaiming Conversation” by MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, who has studied digital technologies for decades. There’s a good conversation to be had about how we can limit some of the adverse effects.

    BUT instead of asking a serious social question, you simply mocked it. You associated the least skepticism with conservatives (Chick-Fil-A is code for conservative Christian “Red Team”). That’s just juvenile. There are excellent secular humanistic reasons to be deeply troubled by some of the research out there. Perhaps you should give it a look.