What happens when you spend a year wearing Google Glass? People find you awkward and weird, and you learn to hate your phone.
Wired's Mat Honan spent the last year wearing Google's wearable technology at every available opportunity, and his biggest takeaway was that people find wearable technology very, very weird. "Again and again, I made people very uncomfortable. That made me very uncomfortable," says Honan.
Honan found Glass was inappropriate for all manner of social situations, like eating dinner, commuting, and helping his wife give birth to their second child. Even his coworkers at Wired, the geekiest magazine on the newsstand, made fun of him for wearing Glass.
Glass was also not welcome at his oldest child's school, "because sometimes it scares children," which is exactly the kind of press Google wants you to read.
That's why, for now, defeating the social and economic obstacles of wearing an ugly $1,500 computer is nearly impossible. "Glass is a class divide on your face," according to Honan. Despite the splashy launch, Google has had to fight the social backlash against wearable technology since Glass debuted earlier this year. Besides the undeniable aesthetic problems, sometimes people threaten to beat up Glass users.
But Honan's year with Glass did yield one significant benefit. Disconnecting from the Internet was a popular trend story in 2013, and now there's a backlash brewing against our addiction to phones. "Backlash against cell phones won’t arrive until we understand the real problem," Robert Lanham wrote for the Awl recently. "Cell phones have made us dull." Which is precisely what Glass did for Honan. Glass helped Honan realize "what a monster I have become," for spending too much time on his phone:
Glass kind of made me hate my phone—or any phone. It made me realize how much they have captured our attention. Phones separate us from our lives in all sorts of ways. Here we are together, looking at little screens, interacting (at best) with people who aren’t here. Looking at our hands instead of each other. Documenting instead of experiencing.
Glass sold me on the concept of getting in and getting out. Glass helped me appreciate what a monster I have become, tethered to the thing in my pocket. I’m too absent.
We are all guilty of this now—standing in a group at a bar where everyone has a drink in one hand, phone in the other, and there are routine breaks in the conversation for everyone to check Twitter. Friends checking out to send an email or a text message, or just to check Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder or anything else we can do on these little wonders of technology
Though Honan isn't entirely sure that Glass is the answer to this problem. "Can yet another device make me more present?" he asks. "Or is it just going to be another distraction? ... I have no idea." But the important thing is Honan acknowledged he was spending too much time on his phone instead of interacting with humans.
Is a reckoning against smartphones coming? Probably not. There are too many phones now, and they're too integrated into every part of our lives. But expect the "I abandoned my smartphone for a dumb phone and got my groove back in the process" to be the regressive tech trend story of 2014.
This post previously appeared on The Wire.