Thursday, April 04, 2013

Cell phones vs. people

Many of us are tied to our phones these days.  Sometimes, there's a valid reason.  And many jobs are no longer 9 to 5.  For example, I got an important email from an agent at 11pm last night.

But go to any restaurant or bar and you're likely to see people hunched over their cells instead of communicating with their companions.  Movie pre-announcements often include no texting reminders because people don't realize that it's rude to use their phones in the middle of a movie.

Many men set their phones on the table...a constant reminder that even as you're chatting, messages are piling up.  What are you missing?  What factoid must you look up immediately?  Will the Earth continue its rotation if you don't check right now, or every five minutes?

Recently I was out with two different friends, who, in the midst of a conversation, and without even saying anything like, "I'm expecting something important," started checking email.  I commented to both, and they put their phones away. 

When did the people in the phone become more important than the people in front of you?  Is that acceptable?  How does the urge to see who posted what or who contacted you or responded take precedence over a friend, a family member, a date? 

George Takei posted on Facebook that people should put their phones in a pile, and the first to reach for his or hers should pay the bill. 

What's your view of second screening (paying attention to your phone, iPad or computer while watching TV), spurred by TV shows putting hash tags so you can follow live tweets? Do people get more out of programs if their attention is diverted to another form of communication, or is the experience enhanced?

Somehow we lasted for decades spending hours and whole days away from our phones.  People called back if they couldn't reach you.  Then they left voicemail messages.  Now, it's as if we're expected to take every call and respond instantly to any text, no matter where we are or who the communication is from.  There's little triage...a miscellaneous text from a random friend is treated with the same urgency as a RESPOND ASAP communcation from a talent agent.

I propose a social media vs. socializing bill of rights.  You have the right to:

1) a cell phone free meal with your companion(s).
2) be free of texts and emails for at least an hour at a time.
3) be free of FB and Twitter for a lot longer than an hour at a time.

It's a privilege to have friends, family and opportunities to socialize and spend time with them.  Don't abuse it by making your cell phone more important in the moment than they are.  If you absolutely, positively can't last an hour without checking in,  excuse yourself from the table.  And return in a timely fashion....

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