Anyone with kids will understand me when I talk about the daily battle to limit their use of their smartphones. Towards the end of 2019, my wife negotiated a hard deal with my daughter – a maximum of 30 minutes a day, so three-and-a-half hours a week – in an attempt to explain how much better it is to see your friends in person than on Facetime, Skype, Zoom or whatever. It becomes even harder to negotiate when you hear the retort – quite justified – that we ourselves spend too much time on our smartphones: to check the weather and the temperature, for example (do I need to take a warm jacket?). Instead of stepping out on to the balcony, we check the forecast on an app.
Then along came Covid-19 and changed everything. The smartphone has become the means for communicating and keeping in touch with the people we love, since we are unable to stay in touch physically. So the perspective has changed: the smartphone has become the link between ourselves and others, not just a tool. Here too the boundaries between the real and digital worlds have become subtle, fading away to the point of disappearing. But what will happen when we return to a semblance of normality in our social lives? My daughter can now meet up with her friends again and she often forgets her smartphone, leaving it behind at home. When this happens my wife reminds her and we smile, remembering how we used to argue over her smartphone dependency 40 years ago... I mean four months ago.