I was having lunch with a friend the other day – seemingly in the middle of a good conversation – when he pulled out his Blackberry and started thumbing away at the keyboard, staring intently at the little device as if I had suddenly vanished. Poof. I’m gone. Conversation over.
“Hey, still there?”, I inquired. He nodded but was still glued to his tiny screen, as if God were about to text him the Dow’s performance for the next year.
“I was suprised you ate that big ball of hair that was in your salad”, I commented to him. “Was it good?”
“Yeah, good lunch”, he replied distractedly.
Now I am the first to admit that I can sometimes be a bit verbose, but normally my friends will smile and say “yeah, I remember you telling me that” to move the conversation on. They seldom transport themselves completely out of the discussion into some other digital world to speak abbreviated languages to people they barely know.
Cell phones and PDAs have certainly helped people connect in many ways, but they have also transformed many of us into distracted, communication-addicted zombies – and unfortunately have added an entirely new level of rudeness into society.
I have a new iPhone. It is my first foray into portable e mail and texting, and I see how the addiction and corresponding rude behavior develops. I sometimes feel myself slipping, my hands grasping the sleek little device, wanting to log on just to see if anyone is looking for me or to check how the market is doing. I haven’t connected digitally with anyone for minutes! Important stuff could be happening! Would the person I am with notice if I just checked it quickly?
Of course they would.
I’m in another restaurant the other day. There is a father and child sitting next to me – Dad and lad out for a day of bonding. But lad is sitting distractedly – figeting while Dad types away on his Blackberry – oblivious to his son, and the fact that his current parenting skills will help develop a rude little man that prefers video games to people.
If you attempt to have normal human interaction while chatting on an electronic device you are missing the wonder of real conversation, you are probably not comprehending important info, and you are being incredibly rude.
Two months ago after spending two weeks preparing an important presentation, I spent $1200 to fly 2000 miles to present to a potential client. Throughout the presentation the clients stared down between their legs. At first I thought they had some kind of personal fixation on their genitals – but they turned out to be Crackberry addicts – typing away while I wasted my time and a very expensive presentation.
And in a twist of fate (and another sign of the current economic turmoil) one of the clients is now out of a job – and contacted me looking for work. For some reason I can’t even remember what they look like – my only memory is the top of their head as they stare down at the screen between their legs, and the sinking feeling that I wasted a lot of time and money, and I probably would not want to work with such a rude client anyway.