Thumbing Smartphones in Public

Smart phone use shows no social, economic, or cultural biases. I see people of all types texting and thumbing their phones in public. Yesterday I saw a middle aged couple walking the Greensboro Greenway while the man was thumbing away on his phone.

It will be interesting to see what sociologists make of this behavior shift in another 10 to 15 years. I assume we’ll snicker at the bulky public display of smart phone use like we do looking back at the shoebox sized phones of the 80’s.

It’s becoming common to see signs at retail establishments, banks, and service providers stating “No Cell Phone Use While Checking Out”. The use of smartphones in public has become all pervasive. Even in restrooms where I’ve heard the man in the next stall having an animated conversation on his cell… Yes even there.

Recently the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency (aka BART) shut down cell phone use in the train station to discourage public protests. The public, according to polling by KPIX-TV CBS 5 released Monday night support this decision. So no thumbing at the train station!

In the United Kingdom, the London riots were encouraged along, at least in part, by social media, specifically Facebook. Two young men received 4 year sentences for inciting riots via Facebook posts. In this case they were sitting at home typing on their personal computers. But it could just as easily have been done with thumbing smartphones while walking around a supermarket.

There are very real world ramifications for smartphone use. Societal influence via social networking (Facebooking and Tweeting, etc.) starts in many cases with the internet in their pockets: the smartphone.

Smartphones being so inexpensive now show no class distinctions. Even Cricket offers smartphones. (Cricket is an inexpensive cell phone provider that has no contracts.) There’s also TracFones (those pay as you go phones you can pick up in a convenience store).

Smartphones are a game changer, just as the personal computer was a game changer. And by extension, the PC connected to the internet changed the world.

So what’s next? Smart glasses? Surgical implants that place video monitors in your cornea? Cloning was once sci-fi… so don’t scoff at cyborg models just yet – we will likely see them in our lifetime. Scientific American posted an article in February, 2011 that shows a promising step towards bionic eyes.

The future is coming. Thumbing is just the beginning.


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