Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Editorial: Put it down

My sister and I had a lively discussion last week about cell phones. Oh I know you've heard the argument time and time again.

You see a room full of teenagers all sitting around. None of them are talking to each other. None of them are even looking at each other. They're looking at their cellular devices, texting someone across the room, playing Angry Birds, or updating their facebook status with song lyrics.

Or how about the kid that texts a girl to ask her out on a date, and then on the night of their date, sends her another text to tell her he's at her house to pick her up.
Seriously? You can't get off your bum, walk up to the door, and meet her parents face to face like a man?

And it gets worse.

Because it's not just the teenagers doing this. It's grown-ups. People who pay mortgages and raise children. People who have careers, not just jobs. Mature human beings who are responsible, nurturing, allowed-to-eat-dessert-before-dinner adults.

And I'm just as guilty. I'm blowing this horn at myself as well as others. Sometimes I find myself saying to myself (in my mind)... "Ames, seriously? Are you that bored with the conversation and so inconsiderate that you can't put your phone down for a measly ten minutes so you can listen to what's being said around you or, heaven forbid, to you?"

I think it's terrible. We all know our social skills are going down the toilet because of the modern technology that allows us to communicate without having to look someone in the face.

Which brings me to another weed in this nasty garden of pathetic-ness: using social networking/technology to insult, demean, cruelly criticize, or bully others. To me, this is the ultimate definition of complete cowardice.
People disagree and that's okay. But it is very possible to do it with respect.

Quick side story on that subject: I was in a creative writing class when I was about 22. A young man was reading one of his pieces in class. It was filled with terrible language. I, very politely, stated that I felt that he could have gone without it and that a more skilled linguist is someone who can express powerful emotions without the use of profanity. He disagreed with me, but was just as cordial about it. And I felt  no ill-will toward him whatsoever. So it is possible. Even in awkward circumstances.

And my final point: the cell phone use mixed with driving debate. I confess, I have texted while driving before. One time I was looking at my phone to change songs on my Pandora radio and the dude in the truck next to me saw me and motioned for me to put the phone down. I was angry. I gave him a dirty look. "I'm not texting! Leave me alone!"

But I wasn't paying attention to the road either. No, I didn't get into an accident. I was lucky. But how many people aren't so lucky? How long with my "luck" hold out?

I'm not saying you have to unplug. I'm not saying, if you're out with friends and your phone rings or you get a text that you should always ignore it. Sometimes those calls or texts are important. I'm just saying don't sit and have another conversation in text land at the same time as the one you're having in real life. Real life is what matters right now.
Rule of thumb? Pretend the people you communicate with (in person or via technology) are standing in front of you. You wouldn't hold two conversations at once or say rude things to them if they were staring you in the face, would you?

I wouldn't.

So this is what I propose...
Pledge to put the phone down. Be with the people you are with.
Don't hide behind a screen thinking you're big stuff. If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all. (Thank you, Thumper)
And for pete's sake, DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE! Find a safe place to pull over. It's allowed, you know.

I'm taking this pledge. I want to be more present. I want to be more kind. And I want to live long and prosper.

Anyone else with me?


Carrie said...

Have you read that awesome story about cell phones and mothering (can't find the darn link!)? Such a good one. I don't have a smartphone so my texting/playing is quite limited and I don't do it like many do. It bugs me when I see people having conversations texting each other in the same room. But I also had a moment when I was at the checkout line--and was on the phone--and I don't think I looked at the checkout girl even once during that whole transaction. I was disappointed in myself for that.

heather said...

About a year ago my mom had a plane ticket out here that at the last minute she wasn't going to able to use, so a friend of mine used it instead -on my dime- and she spent 95% of her time here on her smartphone. I was pretty annoyed.

And I'm with you on the phone while driving thing. Every once in awhile I'll talk and drive, but I never text and drive. Ever. I've been in too many car accidents.

so yes, I am with you!

Ames said...

I am with you too! More present, more of the time :).

Lindsey said...

Love it! I'm with you!

Jennie said...

So true. I will talk on the phone and drive, but never text. I'm finally quashed that habit of my husbands (cause he said he could do it without looking at the phone.. I don't buy it). I need to put my phone down more, I waste so much time on the dumb thing!

Staci said...

Very much with you!!! Loved this post