The Resurrection of Conversation

Perhaps you’ve seen this video, or heard complaints like it–smartphones have destroyed our ability to interact with each other in person. Babycakes Romero [sic] took a bunch of pictures of people using their smart phones in public, seemingly ignoring their companions, and his gallery went viral.

One of my favorite photographers, Zack Arias, called his series De_Vice. Pictures get passed along, with plenty of guffaws on Facebook showing lines of people consumed with their smartphones. Those of us over 30 like to mock younger people for their complete immersion. We all laughed at the video showing a woman fall into a mall fountain because she was consumed by her phone.

I’m not saying the interpretations of these images are wrong, but it is entirely possible they don’t tell the whole story. Photographs don’t show the moments before or after. They don’t show what’s going on in the minds of others. Heck, 99.9% of the time, they don’t even show the screen. Allow me to add captions to Zach’s images (linked here without his consent).

From: Smith & Bennett Attorneys Subject: Case #2015-12333 The court has granted your request for a restraining order. If you see him, call 911 immediately.
I am so tired of waiting for his dad to pick him up. He better answer his damn phone.
Dude, I’m in a really tough bind. Could you spot me $200?
Refill submitted.
“Mother isn’t doing well. You should get on the next flight.”

Yes, we are at a time in our society when we are obsessed with our phones. But there is a good reason for that–they’re really fucking useful devices! We all know this, and live this every day, but for some reason, it is fun to poke fun at what we think other people are doing. Yes, some are playing games. Yes, some are “just” checking social media. But aren’t Facebook or Twitter or Google+ just evolutionary steps in how we communicate? I’ve been having conversations with people “on-line” for 30 years (I dialed into my first BBS using a 300 baud modem)–things are different now, but they’re still conversations. Are they at the expense of the people we’re with? Yes, sometimes. Am I writing this blog post on my laptop while my wife does something on her phone in the same room? Sure. Does anyone think that while we’re in the presence of other human beings that 100% of that time has be spent interacting with them?

So that’s kinda my point. These photos show moments, anecdotes, when people aren’t paying attention to “real-life”. It isn’t that simple. Real life goes on through our devices as well. And sometimes what is going on “on-line” really is more interesting/compelling/important than what is happening right next to us.

So now I’ll prove my point by presenting you with anecdotal photos showing people enjoying their time in person, no phones present. Because, believe it or not, sometimes people do that.

See what I mean!?!? No one is using phones anymore!


One thought on “The Resurrection of Conversation”

  1. Brilliant, Rick. I really like the transformative commentaries you’ve made on the original photos. The original photos and their premise belie as much about their creator as it does about the subjects. You’ve turned this on its ear and shown that these assumptions are quite possibly very wrong. Well done!

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