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Put a boot heel to cellphones


It is painfully obvious that we now live in a disjointed world of social interaction where you are very likely to play second fiddle to a communication device in a one-on-one with other people.

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where the other person is constantly looking down to see if their cellphone has any text messages or social network updates that they obviously believe are infinitely more interesting than you?

I would try not to take this situation too personally because everything appears to be more interesting as long as it’s delivered via cyber-world to the boorishly distracted person sitting right in front of you.

However, some of us are still a little old school when it comes to these situations, because we believe that the person in the room still has much more immediate value than the person not in the room. The people in the room have taken the time to show up and devote part of their day to a flesh-and-blood meeting with you. Sure they could have texted you and subsequently distracted you in a meeting with another flesh-and-blood person, but they chose to actually meet with you and possibly even trotted out an age-old sign of civilization called a hand shake.

That was how we rolled in a bygone era.

But these days ,we have veered into the ditch when it comes to social courtesies and it is likely that we have also had a rollover in the ditch with no survivors when it comes to social graces.

It is now OK to lend half or less of an ear to the person in the room while mulling over every detail of the text message on the cellphone.

I will admit that 100 per cent of human beings are not interesting 100 per cent of the time. But we do owe everybody within visual and physical range our undivided attention. It’s a measure of respect because they showed up in person. Even the people who take a long way around to a short story are still ahead of a text message, even a short text message.

There are a few people who need to be connected to the world at all times, 24/7 every week of the calendar year. Most people call them Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister or Doctor ER. These people make tough decisions that may actually take place during a conversation with people who don’t make tough decisions and I can accept a moment where they are gazing down to check their messages. They also have very valid reasons to put up a finger and say “I gotta take this” when their phone rings.

I will defer every time to any text or cellphone situation that runs straight and true along a life and death theme in a social situation, but I have a little difficulty with any distracted person whose reason for disengagement from our in-person conversation is the result of any text that includes “lol,” “lmfao” or “omg.” These are simply slap-worthy offences.

I doubt things will get any better unless we are given the right to grab the cellphone from the distracted listener, crush it under a sturdy boot heel and then renew the conversation with: “As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted. ...”

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer.

 
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