At dinner last night with my wife and our 14 year-old daughter, I noticed a circular table of four teenage girls eating alone. They were about the same age as my daughter, who wasn’t exactly thrilled to be stuck with her parents as company on her first weekend of the school year. As we ate, I paid attention to the group’s dynamics, imagining them to be a possible reflection of what my daughter would be doing once she started going out alone with friends in New York City.
The most striking characteristic of the group was how they used their phones. The default position for each of them – their resting state, if you will – was to hold their device at chin level while gazing into the blue grip of its screen. They looked away only to point out something happening on that screen – at no time during an hour or so of observation did any of them put their phones down to simply talk to one another.
I pointed this out to my daughter – I’m used to seeing kids on their phones, but this was a bit over the top. “Is that normal?” I asked her. “For sure,” she replied, looking over her shoulder at the clutch of zombified girls. “But,” I protested, “at some point they’ll put them down and just be human beings enjoying each other’s company, right?”
“Not really,” my daughter replied casually. “They’re Snapping,” she stated matter of factly, deducing the fact from the social and physical interactions particular to that app. “They’re adding their dinner to their stories.”
I ventured into old-person-yelling-from-the-porch territory. “But…they’re not going to do that the entire dinner, are they?”
“No,” she replied, “soon they’ll be taking photos of each other for Instagram.”
Within five minutes, that’s exactly what the girls were doing.
“Surely this can’t be a lasting behavior,” I rejoined. “Twenty years from now, we’re all going to look back at this era and realize what a bunch of idiots we were, right?”
My daughter looked at me, considered my statement, and without any apparent irony, agreed.