London-based photographer Babycakes Romero doesn’t own a smartphone. Instead, he treks along in his beloved city, camera in hand, capturing whatever catches his eye. “As a person dedicated to observation, I just feel I would be missing too much of the world around me if I was staring into the palm of my hand the whole time,” he says.
In his photo series, Death of a Conversation, Romero captures people connection with their digital devices rather than with each other — a phenomenon he believes is only creating more pain and social awkwardness to the world. “I saw that smartphones were becoming a barrier to communication in person. I saw how people used it as a social prop, to hide their awkwardness, to fill the silence … they basically allow people to withdraw rather than engage.”
As Romero says, “they do not even seem present in the real world. They are ‘plugged in’ to a virtual world of their own making.”
On the other hand, it is very possible that people could be receiving an urgent message or checking a map on their phone in that one snippet of time in which their photo was taken. Romero says he is not entirely averse to technology, however, thinks “people are starting to derive more pleasure from their ‘computer cuddles’ than from their person to person interactions.”
In the end, Romero hopes to educate people who see his photos and hope to raise a discussion about social smartphone etiquette. “Maybe [people] would at least consider how they used their smartphones and question whether it is appropriate to do it at the expense of those around them and also themselves,” he says.
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