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Please Put Down Your Cell Phone While We’re Having A Conversation

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Everyone has that family member, be it an elderly aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or what have you, that’s simply out of touch with the times. They take advantage of every opportunity to remind you how good things were when people wrote letters to one another with feather-tip pens and used clotheslines instead of machine dryers. They warn that cellphones and the Internet spell the end of society.

When I interact with my grandmother, who refuses to learn how to e-mail, I silently assure myself that I’ll never be like that when I’m older. Thing is, maybe I already am…

You see, texting during a one-on-one conversation bothers me. It’s like an interruption of the natural flow of things. Imagine watching a climatic scene of a Broadway play and one of the actors stops to respond to a Facebook message about how hot Bradley Cooper is. The audience would be livid and her (or his) career would be over. Pulling out her phone ruined the flow of the scene.

Sorry, I just had to respond to my friend real quick. I lost my train of thought. What was I saying?

Oh, yeah. The kind of texting that bothers me is not the kind where someone responds to a message every now and then, nor the kind when you are in a big group just hanging out. It’s the one where you are having dinner with a friend or colleague who can’t help but look at their phone every five minutes and reply. They smile as they type and literally “lol.”

No matter how you put it, I feel texting encroaches on quality time. They say nonverbal communication matters more than the verbal kind. To me, constantly taking out your phone to text is the same as saying “I could care less about your time and I’d much rather be doing something else.” You may assure me that’s not the case, but right after you say so you look right back at your phone and miss my comments about seeing the Wolverine movie.

In an episode of HBO’s Girls, Marnie claims in-person communication is always ideal — but old-fashioned. Like telegraphs and rotary phones. In her opinion, texting is the mode of communication of the times.

Marnie is a fictional character in a TV show who reflects the perspective of many adults in their 20s, and, especially, many teenagers. Texting during a conversation in person is a sign that things are indeed changing. People are choosing to communicate via 140 character messages instead of verbally.

I can’t blame them. It’s easier and faster just to text. I text all the time to inform people of current socials events. No one wants to always go through the motions of greetings and salutations when they just want to let you know they are on their way or to invite you to a party. Why would you take a 30-minute train ride, or be stuck in traffic for an hour (I don’t miss L.A. highways) to talk to your friend in person when you could just text?

I say this not sanctimoniously but sympathetically. It’s difficult to combat the allure of instant gratification. I like hearing the sound of my Kim Possible ringtone. In my brain, it’s tantamount to attention and approval. I fear that I will get hit by some car one day because you’ll often find me texting while crossing the intersection. I have a hard time not responding when I hear that beep beep BEEP beep and see that little speech bubble on my screen.

But I’m committed to stay present in the moment. So much so that I sometimes hand my phone to a friend before we talk to show him or her I plan to give them my full and undivided attention. Daydreaming is another matter entirely, but that can’t be helped.

When it comes to relationships, there’s nothing more craven than to break up via text message. You save yourself the pain of seeing your significant other’s face and hearing their accusations yet deny them the genuineness the situation requires. We often times hide behind the text message like an LCD shield. Typing our vexations to our partner is easier because it’s so impersonal.

So, why does it bother me so that friends pull out their phones and text during a conversation? Because like the advent of devices like Google Glass, geniuses are constantly inventing more ways for us to interact with digital media yet ignore one another in person. Because one day, and one day soon, dear Marnie just might be right. Who will have time to talk in person when you can text, Facebook, Skype, e-mail, G-Chat, and whatever other forms of virtual communication they devise in the next five years?

I urge you, dear reader, to let me know if I’m dead wrong. But would you kindly put away your phone and be present in our conversation? Is that too much to ask? TC mark

image – Young Adult

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