Google’s Sergey Brin finds smartphones “emasculating”—he may have a point.

Sergey Brin models non-emasculating phone habits.
Sergey Brin models non-emasculating phone habits.
Image: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
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Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s comment that he finds smartphones “emasculating” is getting a bit of attention today.

Maybe “emasculating” isn’t the right word, but Brin has a point. The physicality of smartphones is miserable. Here’s what Brin said, according to TED, where he made the comment while giving in one of the organization’s eponymous talks.

“Is this the way you’re meant to interact with other people?” Is the future of connection just people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass? … It’s kind of emasculating. Is this what you’re meant to do with your body?”

Besides the risk of health issues such as “texter’s thumb“ and “texter’s neck,” there are deep issues of nonverbal communication at play here.

The point is, even if you are immersed in the depths of a Twitter war on your iPhone and you have no intention of communicating anything with the other guy in the elevator, you are communicating with him. Just not with words.

So what are you communicating? Well for most of human history, the classic posture of a mobile-device user—shoulders hunched, head down, eyes averted, chin pinned to chest—is also the classic stance of someone  who is diffident, unassertive, reticent and eager to avoid conflict, at least in American culture. (The classic work on the topic is Albert Mehrabian’s 1971 tome Silent Messages.)

Now, we’re not going to suggest that in the future, alpha males will all be wearing Google Glass either. We wonder whether searching the web visually will make you look like anything other than a nerd staring aimlessly into space. But Brin touched on a good point here—even if he delivered it inelegantly.