Opinion: Why Social Media and Cellphones Are Not the Death of Face-to-Face Conversation

Garrett Haskins, Staff Writer

            Whenever I am around anyone old enough to remember the moon landings, I usually get bombarded by their hot takes on how my cellphone is the death of me having any sort of in-person communication skills. The remarks are inescapable, and any conversations are typically one sided. I have never been able to argue with someone that cellphone usage does not harm the social skills of America’s youth.

Outside of the claims that have been made, there is no solid evidence that cellphone usage is somehow related to the decline of social skills. There have been some negative trends associated with cellphone and social media usage, sure, but it doesn’t deal with face-to-face communication.

There have been studies that have shown a link between cellphone usage and anxiety, but the argument against cellphones preceded these studies. I have yet to enter a face-to-face conversation with someone who believes that cellphones are bad who uses this evidence. If the evidence that portrays cellphone usage in a negative light has surfaced, why don’t the proponents of the argument use it while debating the subject? In trying to understand their grudge against mobile devices, I have reached the answer that many others have concluded. People absolutely, positively cannot stand for there to be change.

A great example of this were the people so reluctant to change that they had a slightly derogatory term named after them; the Luddites. For those who slept through their world history lectures, the Luddites were a group of textile workers in 19th century England who felt threatened by the advent of textile machines. They feared the loss of their jobs so much that they would enter factories and smash the machines in an attempt to stop their use. These attempts were of no use, because the benefits of the new machines didn’t take away from the workforce, but instead opened more opportunities for work.

This mindset isn’t limited solely to technology. In the mid-1960s John Lennon made some off-hand comments involving Christianity to a small, teen-oriented, tabloid in England. The interview went under the radar long enough for The Beatles’ front man to forget that he made them. Several months later the interview made its way to the United States, where it was met with such fury people staged record burnings and prohibited The Beatles from being played on radio stations. Why, you may ask? John Lennon made a controversial statement involving a long-established institution and the old guard thought that his comment was representative of the band’s message. The Beatles were at the height of their popularity and the older generations thought that a band whose reach was as broad as theirs was were partially responsible for the moral decline of the country.

I find it odd to think that the ones who grew their hair out and campaigned for acceptance all those years ago are the same ones who are coming down so hard on the younger generation. They should know that their stubbornness won’t do anything to change the future; they dealt with similar baseless claims back then. The lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’” summarize the situation the best, “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”