Full disclosure: I don’t have an iPhone, I don’t text, and the only reason I have a cell phone at all is for emergency use. I leave it in my car and turn it on when I go out so that my Mom can reach me in an emergency or a friend I’m meeting can let me know if they’re delayed or I can call AAA or 911. That’s it!
I’m fascinated by all the people who are walking around talking or texting on their cell phones. What on earth are they talking about? It’s almost as if people can’t be alone with their own thoughts for more than a minute. Young people used to be the biggest culprits but now it seems like people of all ages are addicted to their cell phones. I don’t use the word addiction lightly but, I can’t think of another way to describe this phenomenon. I fully recognize the advantages of technology and of being able to easily connect with people but, as with anything, we have to be the ones who are in control. Fire is a wonderful thing but, it can also burn the house down.
I don’t care if people want to talk or text incessantly (as long as they’re not behind the wheel or not paying attention to where they’re walking). I think it’s weird but, it’s none of my business and it doesn’t affect me personally. It does affect me personally when it interferes with my enjoyment of a meal or a visit with a friend. I am annoyed when the conversation is continually interrupted by the text message signal or ringing of my companion’s phone – I especially hate it when I sit down with someone and they place their phone right on the table like an uninvited third-party. I am offended when my companion’s eyes dart to their phone whenever they receive a text. Not only is the phone an uninvited third party, but what it has to say is apparently more interesting than the conversation we are having! Call me overly sensitive but, I find that to be rude and insulting. When I meet someone for a meal or I’m engaged in a social interaction of any type, I will give my full attention to the person I’m with and I want the same in return. I’ve even seen couples, who appear to be on a date, so focused on their cell phones that they hardly speak to each other! My feeling is, unless you’re a professional who has to be on call, your children are with a sitter, someone in your immediate family is in the hospital or you’re expecting a very important call – you don’t need to answer the damn phone! Put it on vibrate (better yet, silence it) and leave it in your purse or pocket. Enjoy your meal and pay attention to the person who has taken the time out of their life to sit down and break bread with you.
Granted, I admit that I have almost a feeling of sanctity about sharing a meal with someone. It could be because when I was growing up meal time was family time – we didn’t have the TV on and we didn’t read at the table. We talked to each other. We paid attention to the food we were eating, which, in turn, showed respect to the person who prepared or provided it. I brought my son up the same way. As a busy single working mother mealtimes were often the only chance I had to give him my full attention. We didn’t have cell phones back then but, if the house phone rang I said “Let the machine get it”.
Maybe it doesn’t bother you if your companion is constantly responding to their phone, maybe the people in your life don’t mind if your call or text is more important than the conversation you’re having with them. Maybe you’re fine with your kids having their phones on the table during meals. In that case feel free to blow off everything I’ve said here and call me an antiquated curmudgeon. On the other hand, if anything I’ve said rings even the faintest bell with you (no pun intended), then it might be time to reexamine your phone habits. There are many articles online about studies regarding the negative effects of cell phone use on personal interactions and society at large. Consider trying to be more present in the moment and not allowing the digital world to define every aspect of your life. Focus your attention on whoever you are with. And while you’re at it, make sure that you have some quiet time every day. Listen to your thoughts. Go for a walk – you can take your phone for emergencies but silence it – and listen to the birds, pay attention to your surroundings, greet people you pass along the way.
You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together. ~Anthony Bourdain
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