Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Cell-phone sickness

Thank G-d (literally) for Shabbat/Sabbath, or some of us would never turn off our cell phones.  This is your official rant warning.

Must everything be a game?
Have you ever seen a person walking down the street while playing a game on his/her smartphone?  I certainly have.  I'm as guilty as the next person of whipping out my smartphone when waiting in line or waiting to meet someone.  But I'd love to know just when such everyday activities as walking down the street turned into something in need of a boredom cure.  I find the search for constant entertainment, encouraged by the use of mobile devices, really problematic.  Have we become incapable of enjoying ourselves by talking to one another face to face and/or looking at our surroundings and/or the people whom we see in passing?  Do we now have to be reminded to stop and smell the roses?

Not a hostile takeover, just an unconscious one
They're everywhere, with their faces in their cell phones, usually standing at the top or middle of a flight of stairs in the subway station, lest, if they go too far down the stairs, they "lose the signal."  Sometimes, in stations with good cell-phone reception, they might even get daring and stand near the bottom of the stairs, just so they can use the handrail as a public leaning post, while they yack, text, or check their e-mail.  The fact that they're blocking a public thoroughfare and/or making it difficult for elderly and/or mobility-challenged persons to use the handrail doesn't seem even to occur to them.

Where do they think they are?
Been there, blogged that, but the situation certainly hasn't gotten any better in the intervening years.  Many cell-phone users continue to conduct long-winded, and, occasionally, inappropriately-personal, conversations on their cell phones in public places as if they were sitting in their own homes.  I don't wish to appear unsympathetic, but I really don't want to listen in while you break up with your current suitor.  Zeesh, who needs to eavesdrop anymore when the very concept of a private conversation seems to be an endangered species?

A true story, heard through the grapevine
Two good friends got together.  After they'd been chatting for a good while, the host did something totally unexpected—checking his/her cell phone while they chatted, she/he suddenly stopped talking right smack-dab in the middle of a sentence and returned a phone call.  The startled guest, unaccustomed to such rude behavior from this old friend, waited patiently for a few minutes.  But when it became clear that the host wasn't going to put down the cell phone any time soon, the guest said his/her goodbyes and got up to leave.  The host, who been on the phone for perhaps ten minutes at that point, walked the guest to door, and, still on the phone, simply said goodbye.

Is this just a new way of trying to tell a person that she/he has overstayed his/her welcome?  Or do folks who benefit from the (un?)wired world of instant communication consider responding immediately to any form of communication, even in the presence of guests, the new normal?  Has the widespread use of cell phones and, especially, smartphones, changed our perception of what constitutes courteous and considerate behavior?  If so, I daresay that we're the worse for it.  It saddens me that talking to someone who's not with you is becoming more important that paying attention to someone who is.  Whatever happened to "Let me call you later—I have guests"?

My late mother flatly forbade us to turn on the television when we had company.  "If they want to watch TV, they can stay home," she used to say, insisting that guests and hosts should talk to one another, not to an inanimate object.  :)  I feel the same way about cell phones.  If we get together for lunch, I expect you to talk to me, not to someone who isn't there, whose call can jolly well wait.


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