February 26, 2013

Is It Really So Bad To Be Looking At Your Phone?

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What is the issue?

On Sunday, I was at an Oscar party in Bushwick. During the show — or any cultural event — I like to livetweet. I am a writer, hoping to become a professional comedy writer and I have a big enough Twitter following that I’ve gotten some great opportunities just based on the strength of my jokes there. Pretty cool and necessary for someone trying to make it in this competitive field. I like being able to show I can write timely jokes quickly and on the fly and sometimes I get hired to do that because people like my Twitter.

But apparently, I hit some nerves during this Oscar party. One person in particular told me I was being rude by occasionally looking at my phone during the party. Once or twice, I happened to see other people’s Tweets and shared them with the room because I thought they were funny. People laughed. No one seemed upset. But this one person told me I shouldn’t have even had my phone out at all. That tweeting things during commercials or in between conversations was a terrible faux pas. I should have turned my phone off. I was there to hang out in the moment with the people in that room. Why wasn’t that enough?

And I am completely open to hearing that this is an EGREGIOUS, unforgivable offense. I am totally down to hear arguments that I am being the worst and that even peeking at your phone in the presence of others is immensely rude. There have been countless articles on here about how people need to put down their phones and experience life. But sometimes I’m like, “Jeez. Is checking your phone the new murdering little children? Why does everyone act like it’s the WORST thing you could ever do?” There are real people on the end of those tweets and emails. How is looking at them not interacting with “real life?” It’s all real life. The people with me, and the people I’m friends with online. All real.

I check my phone primarily because I work a lot and I don’t have usual hours. Sometimes editors get at me at 11:30 at night. Sometimes people schedule auditions for me and say like, “Hey can you be here in 45 minutes?” Missing a phone call might mean missing a cool job opportunity or something where I can make money. As a freelancer, I really need every money-making endeavor that comes my way so I can pay rent, buy food, etc. I check my phone sometimes just out of some small anxiety that I might miss a job. And because they know everyone has a phone and most people, a smart phone, there’s no excuse for me to not respond ASAP.

Then, at the party, like I said, I enjoy lightly livetweeting cultural events where I know a lot of people will be reading Twitter. It’s kind of like work to me, a necessary evil. It’s almost like updating a resume. I also like interacting with my followers during a nationwide/worldwide event. I like seeing their jokes and I like their responses to mine. I don’t feel like I’m tuning out the people I am with in reality. I only took out my phone during that party to tweet maybe 5 times, and we were there for several hours. I had conversations with people, ate food, generally interacted in real life. Is it such a terrible thing to occasionally do something I feel is part of my job?

I don’t think I’m on my phone more than the average person? But maybe I just don’t notice it because it seems a normal amount to me. Maybe it’s a symptom of control issues or of my anxiety that I worry so much about letting a phone call go to voicemail. But I know from personal experience that sometimes that means the difference between dinner and no dinner. I don’t want to be rude to people. It makes me sad to think there are people who have thought I wasn’t interested in them or found them boring because I glanced at my email when we were hanging out. I’m still listening, and then I put my phone away and probably won’t look at it again until it makes a noise.

Maybe that is the worst and I unintentionally suck. I’m sorry if so. And no, I’m not going to tweet that. TC Mark

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