It’s something of a joke among my coworkers: Jaclyn hates her phone. I don’t like the idea of people reaching me any old time they like. I value my free time way too much to want anyone to have that kind access to me.
As a result, I tend to judge people whose phones grow as an extension of their wrists. Earlier this week, I went to a work lunch. I was the first one there, and I noticed I had a text message from my aunt. As I replied, the next two attendees arrived, and I apologizes profusely for my phone, which I promptly put away and did not touch for the rest of the lunch.
During lunch, one young man rarely made eye contact with anyone else at the table because he was too busy on his phone. A woman he is working with at one point told him, “I don’t even need your cell phone number. You respond faster than anyone I know when I email you!”
He beamed and said “thank you.” I judged him like the meanie I am. WHY was he proud of this?? How many people has he snubbed over the years while he’s been so concerned to hit “reply” to an email he received 32 seconds ago? Yes, it can make the email sender feel good to feel so important, but if it had taken him 2 1/2 hours, would the sender have felt badly? Never mind the people he’s had to ignore to be so “on it” all the time–what about the precedent he’s setting for himself? Isn’t he creating an expectation that he will drop whatever he’s doing to reply to an email?
What aggravates me most about this sort of thing–and the reason I apologized when I was caught on my phone–is that keeping your face toward a screen when you are with actual people in actual life tells those people, “You are unimportant to me.” It’s disrespectful, and it’s rude.
I notice it so much, I comment on it so much, that my husband and I have taken to pointing it out to each other when we go out. Look around the next time you’re in a restaurant: You’ll likely see multiple tables where no one is talking because everyone is ignoring their actual company in favor of virtual company.
Folks who heart their phones so hard seem to have plenty of excuses: “I’m worried about my kid” or “It’s something important for work.” I don’t buy it. Unless you’re waiting for word that a loved one’s surgery went well, or something akin to that, no one’s that important.
Redaction: Presidents and prime ministers and kings are that important. Are you a president, prime minister, or king? You are??? Then welcome to my blog! You’re not? Well … then might I challenge you to put your phone away the next time you’re at a social outing? Your friends and colleagues will appreciate it.