Wow, has the world changed in the last forty years.
Back when I was growing up, before cell phones, we thought it was swell (and
utterly amazing) to have more than one phone jack in the house. Then when
cordless phones came along, holy crap, we were stylin. The cat’s meow. But back
then, when you left the house, there was no way for family and friends to get a
hold of you. They had to leave a message on your answering machine or possibly
call you at work. If you went out for dinner or to a sporting event or movie,
oh well, you actually got to enjoy it without worrying about a phone call
Well, some of us (myself included, and this is perhaps due to the fact that I am in my mid-forties and grew up without a cell phone) do not allow our phones to control our lives. I am not connected to the whole world every waking (and sleeping) moment of my life. There are times I choose to turn off my phone, like when I go out to eat or go to a movie. Sometimes even when I’m at home working on a writing project, I log off the Internet and shut off my phone.
People don’t like that! OMG, it confuses them. Sometimes they think I’m being anti-social or rude. They think I’m ignoring their text messages or IM’s, even though they just sent them ten minutes prior. People are so used to being connected 100% of the time that they actually think the rest of the world is too, or that it should be.
I don’t want to step out of my shower or bathroom to answer my phone. I don’t want to be checking my email while trying to eat dinner. And honestly, if I’m with someone, I don’t want them to do that either. I certainly don’t want to be in line at the supermarket when the person in front of me can’t figure out how to swipe his credit card through the little reader thingy because he is so focused on his phone call that he’s unaware of what the hell is going on. And it irks the hell out of me when a waitress is trying to take someone’s order and they won’t show her the common courtesy of putting down their phone long enough to speak to her.
Please don’t assume I am ignoring you if I miss your phone call or fail to answer your text message right away. I might just have my phone off because I’m watching my favorite show on TV or because I’m eating dinner or taking a shower.
And please, for the love of God, don’t think I’m being rude when I respond to you in a way that you might interpret as being curt or snippy. For example, if I say ok, that doesn’t mean something is wrong or that I’m in a bad mood. It means okay. Everything’s okay. Think about it like speech. You can say “Okay!” really excitedly with a whole lot of cheer, or you can say it glumly as if you just had a root canal. It is never safe to read inflection into a printed comment, especially in a text or chat message. When you cannot hear the tone of a person’s voice, you have no way of knowing if they are annoyed or angry or elated. That’s also why sarcasm often fails in print. A big part of it is the way you say something, not just the words you speak.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging those who are more technologically savvy than me. If you get pleasure from staying connected all the time, more power to you. But by the same token, please do not assume I am the same way. I really, really, really like being able to turn off the phone. That doesn’t mean I hate the world, it just means I love my own life.
Posted by Jeff Erno.