The other day, we took our daughter to the botanical gardens. There’s a spot on the way out where everyone takes a picture of their kids: the butterfly chair. No matter how many times we take Elizabeth to the gardens (which is a lot), she always wants her picture there.
As we waited for another dad to finish snapping a picture of his daughter, I caught a glimpse of the phone he was using.
A flip phone? What decade does he think this is?
Before I even realized it, I was forming a judgment about this guy from the device he was using to capture a memory with his daughter.
We tell our kids not to judge others by the clothes they wear, the house they live in, or the car they drive. But judging people for what kind of cell phone they use? Apparently that’s another matter.
According to one survey, more than half of people admit to judging someone based on the model and condition of their phone. The fact that I’m one of them worries me.
What am I teaching my daughter to value? The person or the technology they carry?
Could it be that all this new technology is eroding our sense of wonder, in addition to making us even more judgmental?
Remember 2007, when the iPhone was a groundbreaking innovation that promised to revolutionize your life?
Well, it did. Now… I get cranky whenever I leave the house and forget my smartphone. What, you mean I have to think about where I’m going? I can’t just let my phone tell me how to get there?
As my older-generation smartphone became slower and less responsive over the years, I became more and more irritable. Could you revolutionize my life a little faster, please?
And then the newer model came out. How come nothing happens when I try to talk to MY phone? What is this, 2008?
Technology that once inspired wonder and excitement gradually nurtured a sense of entitlement instead. I learned just how grumpy I can get when that technology doesn’t work the way I expect it to.
We are passing this discontentment on to the next generation, too. When my wife and I recently upgraded our phones, our daughter asked when she was going to get a phone like ours. Not a toy phone. A real one.
I’m not convinced the answer is to renounce technology. It has, after all, revolutionized our lives…mostly (though not always) for the better.
Still, I don’t want to the price of this revolution to be my sense of wonder. I shouldn’t forget that I was born into privilege, the likes of which most have never known. Even the old phone I recently replaced is one of the most remarkable pieces of technology ever made.
Most importantly, for my sake and my daughter’s, I want to stop judging others by what kind of technology they do (or don’t) carry.
I have no idea why the guy at the botanical gardens was using a flip phone. Maybe it was out of economic necessity. Maybe his iPhone was broken. Or maybe he’s concerned about the fact that most smartphones are made with unethically sourced minerals. Maybe he’s just not phased by the intense cultural pressure to always have the latest gadget.
It doesn’t matter. He is more than the technology he carries. We all are.
I don’t want my daughter to forget that. Which means that I can’t afford to forget it, either.