Don’t let technology turn the tables on us

Take a look at any college brochure cover and you will undoubtedly see countless pictures of a group of students laughing together as they cross a grassy quad, or chatting happily as they sit on the marble steps of an ivy-covered building.

Sounds nice, right? However, if you stop to really look around, you’ll find that these picturesque scenes of social interaction are becoming much rarer on campuses. This is especially true if you stop and picture a normal weekday at GW.

The cause, as old-fashioned as it may sound, is the increasing accessibility of technology. It seems pretty clear that at this school our technology etiquette and sensibilities are lacking, and sometimes we need to know when to leave the gizmos at home.

The gadget of choice for many students is the iPod. Many students employ these handy devices as a way to make the treks around campus or the ride on the Vern Express less tedious. But some students don’t realize how unapproachable a pair of tiny white headphones in their ears makes them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve observed exactly how much of an impact iPods are having on campus. I watched a student chase his iPod-listening friend down half a city block before the friend realized that someone was trying to get his attention. In another instance, two friends stopped to greet each other, and each one removed only one headphone from their ear, not deeming it worth the effort to remove them entirely. One day, I even saw a police officer in a parked patrol car sporting the notorious white headphones.

College is all about meeting new people and being exposed to diversity and different points of view. But it’s rather difficult to try to strike up small talk when you’re not sure if the person sitting next to you wants to be interrupted from their favorite song or, for that matter, if they can even hear you.

Of course, the cell phone is perhaps the one form of technology we abuse the most. It is not only uncomfortable, but also completely rude to interrupt someone’s call, so when you are on the phone, you have successfully isolated yourself from your surroundings.

Not only that, but people with cell phones surgically attached to their ears often don’t realize exactly how rude they’re being. Although we tend not to think about it, customer service workers are people too, and it can’t be all that pleasant for them when people place their orders without the courtesy to put down the phone.

Also, this sort of behavior is often accompanied by yelling into the phone. Everyone within a ten-foot radius does not need or want to hear about someone’s weekend plans.

The infiltration of technology on campus goes beyond just casual social relationships, and has found its way into the classroom. When some students are sitting in lecture halls, I think they often forget that the person speaking in front of us is an expert in their field, and opt instead to send text messages or play solitaire on their laptops. Why bother coming to class if you’re just going to spend the whole hour and fifteen minutes messaging people on Facebook?

This is extremely rude not only to the professor, but to the other students in the room as well. As a freshman, I was really surprised by the fact that not a single class can pass without at least three cell phones going off. But what really shocked me was that the cell phone owners seldom look embarrassed at disrupting the class, and some even go as far as to answer the call. It should not be so hard to break away from our digital contraptions to actively participate in a class, or at least pay attention.

I admit that I am as guilty as the next person of sometimes wanting to disappear behind my iPod, or of sending an e-mail when I really should have called. However, some simple human interaction would help create a better social and academic environment on campus.

When you head off to class, try leaving the gadgets at home, or at the very least buried at the bottom of your backpack.

-The writer is a freshman majoring in criminal justice.

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