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Put down the phone and think for yourself
Gina Barreca: Don't get hung up on your phone-look up

Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 6/8/2014


--If your phone is smarter than you, it is not time to get a new phone: It's time to get a new life.

Many of us have a more intimate relationship with our devices than we have with members of our immediate family. We're more attached to our devices, more fond of them, responsive to them and attuned to every nuance of their tiny, soulless selves than we are to, say, our first cousins.

We remember the day we got our first computer or iPad but forget the exact year our nephew got married. We know how to upload apps but don't have a current mailing address for our best friend from high school. We've bookmarked cute puppy-meets-dolphin videos from "HappyPlace" but erased the performance by our neighbor when she sang in the community theater production of "The Fantasticks."

We know how to play "Candy Crush" but we don't know how to make folks feel comfortable by talking to them when they enter a room; we know how to Instagram our meal but have lost the art of making conversation over dinner.

I'll admit that I have a severe allergic reaction to seeing people using electronic devices at meals. It's like being allergic to nuts. Actually, as far as I'm concerned, it is being allergic to nuts.

I've seen whole groups sitting around a lovely table at a nice restaurant where every family member, ages 7 to 70, is holding a square piece of plastic, eyes down, thumbs going like mad (OK, Grandpa might be using a stylus) and saying, in terms of spoken language, exactly nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. It's unnerving, right? If you're at a table nearby, you find yourself speaking in low voices because the group almost looks lost in prayer, heads bowed as if their devices were hymnals.

The only person using her normal voice near that table is the server, who's been instructed by management to memorize the menu because to read the daily specials from a sheet of paper might be considered unsophisticated by the patrons. Since none of the patrons bothers to look up at the server, of course, she could be crossing her eyes and sticking both index fingers in her ears while wiggling them around as she explains how the scrod is prepared. So much for ambience. Who'd know?

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