Last weekend, after doing a bunch of housework and errands, my wife and I decided to take a lunch break. We stopped off at a barbecue place (which is a surprisingly good place to go if you're married to a vegetarian...lots of sides), put in our order, and took a seat. As we chatted it up about all sorts of stuff, I happened to look over at a table across the restaurant. There sat a mother and her three kids, who were all in their preteen to teenage years.
Instead of talking about school, work, college, relationships, and family, all four of them were looking down at their phones. One was playing a game. One was sending text messages. One was checking Facebook. One was replaying to emails.
My wife, on her way to get a drink, happened to glance down at them with a somewhat-unintended look of puzzlement at this situation. Here was this beautiful family, probably with years and years of memories to share, and none of them could be bothered with giving up the virtual world for a few minutes in order to interact with their loved ones. My wife's quick passing glance at them was reciprocated with a look from one of the girls which seemed to say, "Gotta a problem with it?"
I have coined a new phrase for the people who spend a majority of their day staring at the small screen in their hands: Dreary-Eyed Robotic People, or DERPs, for short.
I have an iPhone. My wife has an iPhone. They are very useful tools for communication, entertainment, and information. However, I also have a self-imposed rule. No phone usage at the table. I don't impose this on my wife, because that's ridiculous, but she seems to refrain from using her phone at the table, whenever possible. If we are with a group of friends, I also make it a point to avoid spending excessive time using my phone. Sure, I could spend a few minutes scrolling through Facebook, but is it really important that my friend Frank posted a picture of the toast he just made? Certainly, a conversation with friends is more fulfilling than, "OMG, I hate pants with no pockets! #noroomforchange"
I could give you numerous arguments for why you should use your private time to do all the things you do on your phone. Instead of being preachy, let me give you the best argument in my mind.
We're only here for a little while. More importantly, the people who you love are only here for a little while. Our lives were just fine before tagging, pokes, and hashtags. Spend your time in the real world, not the virtual one. Don't be a DERP.