I read a post recently about how two in five Polish toddlers use tablets and smartphones. I would have been surprised had I not just returned from Poland a couple weeks ago and seen firsthand how large a role such devices play in day-to-day life over there.
Many people believe that Poland is behind the United States developmentally, and in some cases that is true, but when it comes to communication and electronic devices, Poland is right up there with the West.
I observed this when I went into a store called Saturn near Katowice. It’s a German electronics store that has entered the Polish market. I have to admit that there was absolutely zero difference between this place and walking into a Best Buy in the U.S. There were smartphones galore, and, from what I observed, Android is the most popular type there. I even spoke with my nineteen year old cousin (who is naturally an authority on the latest in Polish technology), and he told me that Androids are more popular than iPhones in Poland, which I’m totally ok with being an Android owner myself.
Added to stores like Saturn are the numerous tiny cell phone kiosks scattered throughout the cities and towns that I noticed often had a line of people waiting for one customer service worker. Waiting to buy a smartphone or plan in one of those kiosks is not something I would like to experience, but it goes to show just how much the Poles have come to care about communicating, just like Americans.
Naturally, when I last visited Poland eight years ago, I didn’t see any of this. Back then, smartphones weren’t even that widespread stateside. This time, it was often easy to forget that I was in Poland. Everyone from the elderly down to kids were glued to their phones. I saw two little school girls walking down the street sharing photos with each other and laughing. Older relatives who I could never have imagined operating anything electronic were texting away without any problem. When my cousin took a Selfie of us on his phone, he immediately was able to send it to me via Bluetooth. The examples of what I saw abound.
Of course, there is a pretty big downside to this revolution in communication technology. Americans often complain about how smartphones, tablets, and other technological devices are transforming us into a detached culture of automatons. We don’t talk as much, barely acknowledge each other, and are oblivious to our surroundings. I noticed this same phenomenon in Poland when I was riding a bus to Krakow. All of the young people were on their phones except me (I was people-watching). It seemed very cold. No one looked at you. No one smiled at you. They were too busy worshiping their handheld deities to care about what was happening around them.
That’s not to put down the Poles (smartphones have that effect on many of us). Nor am I saying that using these devices is a bad thing—they certainly have made my life easier. Ultimately, whether we’re in the U.S. or Poland, we need to strike a balance when using our phones. Technology should improve our lives, not control them.
Overall, out of many observations I made in Poland, the smartphone one was probably the most prominent. It was just striking that, even though I was far from home, it seemed at times like my own backyard.