© 2020 Patrick McAndrew

  • Pat McAndrew

The House of Cards: The Phone Versus The Friend

Updated: Feb 1, 2019



Phone- 1, You- 0


In a recent article, I mentioned a conversation I had with a friend and I thought I would elaborate on this more. He discussed how, when he is out with a friend or out on a date, he doesn’t stand a chance against a smartphone. Smartphones give us access to the world. How can a single individual compete with that?


I find myself in similar situations as well. I wonder sometimes what the results would be if I were to calculate the amount of minutes one of my friends is looking at me when with me compared to the amount of minutes that same friend looks at their phone when with me. At least nowadays, my guess would be that there is no contest. The phone always wins!


This, of course, depends on the friend. Some people are amazing at staying off of their phones when in the company of friends and family. And I’m no stickler to the occasional need to check one’s phone. Perhaps we are wondering where a specific family member is who hasn’t arrived yet. Or perhaps we want to take a picture to file the memory. But anything more than this can be excessive.


The Lack of Presence


Much of this has become the norm. Time’s are changing, and it has become standard practice to give first allegiance to the almighty phone, even when out and about with friends, colleagues, and co-workers. We cannot be truly present when distracted by our phones. In this circumstance, we are straddling two worlds, unable to give either our full attention. Because of this, many conversations remain surface level.


There is a certain level of ignorance that is involved when we choose our phone over another human being. Yes, I know, the word ignorant sounds a little harsh, but it’s true. In these circumstances, most of us are ignorant because:

  • We do not realize our ignorance

  • We do not realize that anything is wrong

  • The action of taking our phone out in the company of others seems so minute that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Because of this, it becomes a habit.

  • The habit of checking our phones at every buzz or ding mentally checks us out of the conversation we may have been having

The House of Cards


A conversation is like house of cards. It starts off slow, but as you build your conversation it becomes more and more interesting, just like a house of cards. There is more depth, there are more layers, and soon enough you have built this elaborate house out of super thin pieces, pieces with not much substance while standing alone. Conversation starters like the weather, or our favorite this or that, all represent single cards that, when stacked together to form a house, create a fortress of meaning and connection between two or more people.


The smartphone can also represent a single card, but instead of adding to the growing house of cards, the smartphone takes away a card from the bottom row. When this happens, as anyone who has built a house of cards knows, much of the house will come tumbling down. Sure, a little stack here or there may still exist depending on the size of the house, but it will take a considerable amount of time and effort to build it back up.


Every time someone takes out their smartphone, they are taking away a card from the bottom layer of the house that you have built together. This would be incredibly frustrating if we were building a house of cards, but we always seem to brush it off when discussing smartphones. It isn’t seen as a big deal because everyone is doing it. But, because everyone is doing it, we will soon be left with nothing substantially built. Our relationships will be surface level, much like cards laying flat on a table. Our relationships won’t allow us to reach new heights and, all the while, everyone will be so preoccupied with their smartphones, their single cards, that they will completely forget that there is strength in numbers, strength in relationships. Even if you hold the ace of spades, you will never be able to hold a full house or straight flush.

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