In 2011, one of the motivations for us to start work on the Ubi was that we saw people were heads down in there devices, not paying attention to one another. Today, watching parents wait for their kids to be done with a class, it was mostly the same.
However, I don’t think this is as bothersome as when we first observed it. At that time, it was mostly when people were sitting across from each other. Now, it seems people are more attuned to their use of the phone in front of people their conversing with. Here, people were mostly strangers trying to pass the time.
Some were watching videos, some were talking on the phone, most were reading. Reading emails from work, news, gossip, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. Some were playing games (one had a Nintendo Switch). Some were watching out loud (gasp!), while others had headphones.
For making time go by faster, cell phones are great. Maybe it’d be better if people consumed long forms of content on them but that’s more of a problem with the media than the technology. In normal situations where there’s waiting time and people don’t know the ones around them well, they’re looking more for distraction than conversation (at least in Canada). They’ll find it whether it’s a book or a phone.
PS… a nice opinion piece on how papers are not antisocial…