By Kyoka Akers
Special to the Times
Whether it’s a waiting room, red light, church, school, hospital, restaurant, gym or park nearly everyone can be seen on their smartphones, either texting, on social media, listening to music or just browsing the web.
Is this newfound means of connection really keeping people disconnected? Has the advancement of technology removed people from real intimacy?
According to Dr. Ioana Shirley, psychiatrist at Psychiatry Consultants LLC., in Birmingham, “It’s not a matter of technology replacing intimacy it’s just a matter of using technology and adjusting to it instead of allowing it to evolve our lives. In some ways I think the actual intimacy can be better, but it can also be worst . . . there is a fine line because smartphones are also very helpful. There is therapy on the phone and information that people otherwise wouldn’t get.”
Smartphones also have a downside for some business owners, said James Lewis, Owner and Chef at Bettola Restaurant in Birmingham.
“Not only are smartphones replacing intimacy it can also cause problems at work, especially when people are addicted to it, they either keep looking at it, using it or playing on it when they’re not supposed to, so there is a constant struggle of that happening within the business,” Lewis said.
Another problem, he said, is when you text “you could be saying one thing but it can come off completely different and that creates a rift that didn’t need to be in the conversation in the first place.”
Some lawyers point to the impact of phones in the legal arena.
“Smartphones and social media have changed the landscape of the evidence that is available in personal injury and divorce cases,” says attorney Patrice Blankenship of Blankenship and Associates, PC. “What you find is that infidelity and inappropriate relations are more easily proven with the new technology, texting and social media. Phones have a major impact on the infidelity grounds for divorce as far as being able to prove it. But it is very hurtful to the other party because they know exactly what their spouse is doing.”
Blankenship admits that she often communicates with her clients via text or email, because it’s more efficient, but when it comes to personal relationships she feels that technology does remove intimacy.
“Even though people use capital letters when texting it’s still not the same as face to face communication,” she said. “I still had to get myself abreast with a lot of the abbreviations, because I didn’t know what they meant, so I had to get one of my nieces or cousins to help me with that . . . I’m still learning it. But it does impact the way we communicate.”
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 68 percent of U.S adults have a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011. Their research shows 86 percent of those 18-29 years of age have a smartphone, along with 83 percent of those ages 30-49 and 87 percent of those living in households earning $75,000 and up annually.
Lebaron Marks, of Marks Media Cinematography LLC., in Birmingham, who is in that 30-49 age range admits that he uses his smartphone for everything, but he can’t deny its negative impact when it comes to real human interaction. “It’s a more convenient way to communicate, but it is making things less personable than they use to be,” he said.