Exactly when was the last time you had someone՚s undivided attention? These day…
Exactly when was the last time you had someone՚s undivided attention? These days, everyone is distracted. Try talking to a fellow human being and their eyes will constantly ﬂick downwards… towards their mobile phone. God gave us ten ﬁngers and a highly developed sense of touch so we could savour life to the full. Our hands enable us to work, play sport, etc. With them we can create great art, sew beautiful clothes, arrange ﬂowers and write poetry. But what do we increasingly prefer to do with them instead?
Repeatedly stab at a tiny pad hundreds (if not thousands) of times every day to send texts or emails. The device we value above all else: lose it, and we՚re reduced to tears and can barely function — it՚s a kin to a bereavement. We carry our phones around like priceless jewels. They have their own little shelves in cars and special pockets in our handbags. Phones now dominate our lives; they stand between us and civilised behaviour, reducing us to boorish zombies.
Recently, I wrote that restaurants should ban disruptive small children in the evenings — and you wrote in your thousands to say you agreed. So, even though I admit to over-use of my Blackberry, I՚m willing to add another item to the banned list: the smartphone. Nowadays, when this phone-obsessed generation arrive at a cafe or pub, restaurant or dining room, what is the ﬁrst thing they do? They don՚t ask for the menu, they lay down their precious gadget on the table, right next to them, with the screen facing up so they can monitor emails, incoming texts or calls.
And conventional manners have gone out of the window. These days, the person sitting opposite you is guaranteed to interrupt you by peering down at their precious plastic pal, mumbling: “Just ignore me, I must reply to this” before tapping away for several minutes. The result? You՚re left feeling far less important than what՚s happening on their phone. Back when a telephone was something that lived on a small table in the hall and which was used only for emergencies or weekly chats with far ﬂung relatives, my mum would decree that when in company, I should pay attention and look interested. I should never speak when others were talking. I should speak only when spoken to. Ha, ha, ha! Those basic rules have vanished forever as we carry on cyber conversations while eating, on dates, in the cinema, theatre and while watching TV.
Children, teenagers, mums, dads, tourists and businessmen and women were all ﬁxated on their tiny screens, ignoring the subtle lighting, luxurious surroundings and delicious food a top chef had taken hours to prepare. It wouldn՚t be so bad if all this over-communication resulted in a more productive society. The phone has become a barrier to direct, simple conversations and primary experiences. Selﬁes scream: “Look at me, I must be important, because I՚ve photographed myself.” Of course, phones have their uses, but when did they become something we couldn՚t live without? Why is a phone more important than a face-to-face chat?
An endless ﬂow of tweets, emails, texts and images is a substitute for real conversation and feedback, interaction that involves letting the other person speak and responding in real time. By allowing teenagers to take their devices into class we are ensuring the next generation will be so dependent on these addictive props they will lack any social skills and be even more unemployable. How can children learn to hold a meaningful conversation in the real world if all their experiences are via a phone? Not that I՚m pretending to be any more immune to the lure of the lit screen. Now, I՚m trying hard not to touch my phone for a couple of hours at a time, but it՚s proving far more difficult than giving up booze. Have we all gone mad?
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Which two things does the author recommend to ban in restaurants?
- Bad-mannered people and wi-ﬁ access.
- Texting people and game facilities.
- Chatting teenagers and their mobiles.
- Screaming toddlers and priceless gadgets.
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