Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cell Phones and Texting

There was a post on a group I belong to about text messaging and how prevalent it has become. While cell phones and texting are a great way to stay in touch, it has almost become an excuse to be rude.

I've noticed that among my own friends cell phones have become almost a permanent attachment to their heads. Some have Bluetooth devices, some have ear buds, some just hold the cell to their ears while they are driving, shopping, and every other activity they are involved in.

I remember a time when your home phone was the only way to instantly communicate from one location to another. Cordless phones later came along and we could actually walk around inside and outside our homes while talking to friends and family.

I wasn't too impressed with cell phones at first. I didn't see the need to have to be constantly in touch. Well, I started to see the reason when my parents started getting older and having health issues. I really got on board when I started working at a location that was out in the middle of nowhere and my car broke down. I still use my cell mostly for emergencies. The people who are important to me have my home phone and my cell numbers. My life doesn't revolve around my cell phone, but I am glad to have one when I need it.

I wondered why every single child over the age of ten had to have a cell. Well, when a local child was abducted from a bus stop and the other kids were able to get the authorities involved (and notify their parents) in minutes, I understood. It's also good if a kid's car breaks down, runs out of gas, or gets a flat. The child can call the parent and stay safe in the car until the parent gets there or sends roadside service.

I have some reservations with texting, though. I do see a time to text. I'd rather see someone looking at their cell phone display and typing something in rather than talking. If parents are out and the babysitter needs to contact them, a text can do the trick without disturbing (and sometimes annoying) people around the parents in a restaurant or movie theater. The parent can then leave or step outside make a phone call.

Doesn't it annoy you to be sitting in a church service and hearing a phone ring? It can be annoying to have someone in the middle of a row get up, try to exit past all the feet and legs to go out, answer the call, and then go back to their seat? Giving a young child something to occupy them during a church service is one thing. A teenager, young adult or even a more mature adult should be able to sit through a church service for an hour or so without texting or going through withdrawal because they aren't in constant touch with their friends. Yes, I'd rather see anyone texting rather than talking on a cell phone. In either case, talking or texting, you can't be paying much attention to the service. And if you are talking, those around you can't pay attention. Again, exceptions are always just that - exceptions.

But, I do think it's rude talking to or texting someone on a cell phone, when you are with a real, live person. There are always exceptions though, such as your babysitter calling, or your kid calling and saying their car broke down, someone's been taken to the hospital, or a neighbor calling to say your house has been broken into or is on fire. These are emergency situations and are always exceptions. Another exception might be if you are a professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, police officer, or subject to being on call. There are probably other exceptions I'm not thinking about. A call or text about how lame the 'rents are, or the boyfriend is just sooooo cute!! or whatever is not an exception and can be answered later.

I wonder if it's not a way of distancing oneself from others. Sure, I can be constantly talking to or texting people, but then I don't have to see them face to face (like using a computer). I don't have to practice people skills that are used in face to face situations. hmmm....interesting thought. I'll explore that more at another time.

The bottom line for me is that if you are with me, your attention should be with me. If you are talking to or texting someone else, and it's not a exceptional situation, maybe you don't want to be with me. Maybe you think that phone call or text that's coming in is more important than I am or maybe more interesting or more entertaining than I am. While this sounds like a dating situation, it doesn't have to be. It could be family BBQ, friends having dinner or drinks after work, or even a business meeting.

It might be true that I'm not very interesting, important, or entertaining. But, in my humble opinion, it's very rude behavior. You have told me without words that I am not important to you. That phone call or text message has to be more important than my presence or anything I can say or think.

Everyone needs to feel important to other people, whether it's a social or business setting, but you could be sending a message you don't realize your sending or intend to send: you're not important to me.

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