Almost every day I read an article bemoaning the fact that kids today prefer video games and texting over in-person contact with friends and family members. I’ve observed this in my grandchildren and made a few bemoaning noises of my own.
Then I considered a close relative (over 50; shall remain nameless here in deference to my extended health) and her passion for playing solitaire on her smart phone at all hours. This was followed by a fractured conversation with my friend Tony (slightly over 70) during which I was competing with his phone for his attention, and lost. Tony confessed his “addiction” to solitaire and other games whenever he had a free moment.
What if, I began to wonder, it isn’t just the kids doing this?
Ever the enterprising social scientist, I conducted an informal survey by walking around the frequent flyer club of a major airline, spying on smart phone usage by members I eyeballed to be over 50. The result: 40% of the phones were being used for phone calls; 60% were being used for games.
Medical researchers will tell you that playing word and card games (Scrabble, bridge, etc.) and doing puzzles (crossword, sudoku, etc.) keep the brain nimble, and help with memory and reasoning power. But when game playing starts interfering with social graces . . . that’s when I cry foul.
I’m not advocating for anyone to go cold turkey on solitaire or Candy Crush Saga or whatever the online game du jour is. Just, please, turn your phone off when you’re with me.