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Editorial: What happens when you put down the smartphone?

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Image by Ignacio Medina

As revolutionary as the advances in technology over the last decade have been, they have come with a price.

The iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. Grand Rapids Community College was much different back then.

Social media was Facebook. There was no Twitter or Instagram, and Facebook was something you would occasionally look at when you got home to your computer. Now people seem to spend more time talking through text messages and Facebook than actually having face-to-face conversations.

The social aspect is not the only part of the problem. Smartphones have made life dangerous. When people are more interested in a friend’s status update than the red light they are about to blow through, that’s a pretty good sign that things have gotten out of hand.

The less serious, but equally annoying part is the fact that we have become a society of zombies, walking around, staring at our phones, as if we might miss out on the latest social media trend, therefore becoming less cool as a result.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do have positive qualities, when used the right way. Social media can make it easier for people to spread the word about anything from a small local business, to family get togethers, to protests, like the ones in Ferguson, Missouri. The thing about these instances is that, once posted, they are not going anywhere. That cute picture of your baby cousin or nephew will still be there after class. There is rarely anything so important that someone should have to sacrifice seeing what’s in front of them while they are walking

What they call “social media” should really be called “anti-social media,” because the only way to form meaningful, lasting relationships is to actually make eye contact with someone and have a conversation (and no, FaceTime does not count).

When people used to go out to eat they would sit across from each other and have conversations. Now, in any restaurant, couples can be seen paying closer attention to their phones than the person across from them. At the movie theater, on a Friday night, there is a very good chance that at least one person (usually more) will be constantly checking their phone. This is not only disrespectful to the other moviegoers, but to one’s self as well. With ticket prices at $8.50 for a college student, why would someone pay that much to sit in a darkened theater and check their social media?

College is a great time to meet a future spouse or start a friendship that will last a lifetime. However, these chance meetings are nearly impossible when, as they wait for a teacher, students line the hallways and most of them are staring at their screens, scrolling through news feeds that are never really that interesting.

This year try something new. Put down that device, look up, turn to the person next to you and say, “Hello.”