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Christmas iPhone Ad: A Socially Anxious Extrovert’s Perspective

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Earlier today, my good friend Brian Otte shared Apple’s new iPhone Christmas ad, entitled “Misunderstood.”

The ad depicts a family Christmas gathering. In each scene we see a teenage boy focused on his phone, seemingly withdrawn from the activities going on around him. In the final scene of the commercial, he gathers the family together and shares the video he’d be secretly shooting throughout the day, on his phone.

Brian shared the video with the comment, “I really don’t know how I feel about the sentiment here. On the one hand it demonstrates that technology can be used to capture moments instead of avoid them, but on the other hand I feel like too often we are concerned with capturing moments instead of participating in them.”

In the discussion that followed, an NPR article about the same ad was shared, which discussed those same two interpretations of the ad – the one which (negatively) feels that it’s saying our phones should be infused into every aspect of our lives, and the other which (positively) feels the ad is pointing out that a seemingly-disconnected teenager may in fact be engaged in the events around him or her.

I have a feeling that the two basic reactions stem from two different general views of technology, and what effect it has on children, or people in general. For those who feel that technology can enrich our lives, and can help those who have difficulty connecting find a way to reach out to others, it does a wonderful job of pointing out that the kid who spends his time on his phone might not be shutting out what’s happening around him, but connecting in his own way. It’s not just about capturing moments as opposed to participating; creating something that can be experienced by others IS participating.

For those who believe that technology separates us from one another, the reaction is opposite. What I think those people forget is the kids that sit around on their phones, but are still with family, without those phones would either be looking miserable and saying nothing, or have gone off by themselves. Remember how parents used to complain that kids were always off in their rooms talking on the phone? Well, they’re not in their rooms anymore, and they’re not tying up the phone lines.

I fall squarely into the first group. I’m an extrovert with social anxiety – I crave human interaction, but am terrified of making first contact with strangers, or even those I don’t know well (and that includes extended family). Sharing things that I’d created – much like the kid in this video – was a way for me to break through that initial awkwardness and jumpstart interactions with people.

That’s one of the big reasons I’m a musician. Getting on stage and playing my songs is a way to connect with people I’d be otherwise terrified to go up and speak to.

Happy holidays, everyone… however you choose to participate in them!

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