Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scintillating Dinner Conversations...

... on a tiny, tiny keyboard... that don't involve me.

This is the frustrating reality of life in the smartphone era- a syndrome I refer to as Hyper-Connectivity Addiction.  The syndrome presents itself as a constellation of symptoms, ranging from inappropriate use of electronic communication devices, prioritization of electronic interaction over personal interaction, and etiquette-busting rudeness with no sense of time or place for use of personal electronics.

Over the last year, going out to dinner with others frequently turns from a time to share conversation and time together into a time where I watch someone play with a phone.  Whether it is texting, talking, or checking their fairy-tale football team, the time at the table previously filled with witty banter, personal interaction and news exchange has transformed into the prime venue to catch up on trivial electronic business with the rest of the world.

Now, it could just be that I'm boring and bring nothing to the table, leading those I'm with to seek distraction.  I fully admit that possibility.

However, I really think that there's a time and a place for technology.  I am trying to train my 12 and 16 year old nieces on how to have a conversation.  I'd like to hear about their schoolwork, their days, etc.  Two of my nephews are 20 and 22.  We were disconnected for 7 years and they grew into really cool guys.  I look forward to the limited time I have with them, but invariably have to share it with the rest of the world via iPhone.

Again, maybe I'm just boring.  Or smell.  Or both.


Good times at dinner, watching family electronically 
interact with the rest of the world. 
(Taken with a smart phone)

And I do verbally request that phones be put away, usually met by rolling eyeballs and a few minutes of phone-free time.

My wife will tell me that all I do is talk on the phone during dinner all the time, which I wholeheartedly disagree.  It is one of my pet peeves, right up there with throwing out food and sock puppets.  I usually use the time in a restaurant or other philosophically phone-free zone as an opportunity to leave my phone charging in the car. I am rarely guilty of this atrocity.

On rare occasions, maybe once every two months, I am expecting a call that must be prioritized.  If it coincides with a meal (at home or away) I mention that I may have to take a call.  When the call comes, I excuse myself from the table and go to a lobby or non-intrusive area to take the call.  I minimize the time away from the table as best I can.

Maybe I sound like gramps here, but the day that a solar flare takes out the goddamn SmartPhone satellite I'm going to rejoice.  I'm taking my wife, dad, nieces and nephews out for dinner and we'll talk with no interruptions. Again, it could just be me.  I don't get enough time with my wife, dad or family and really do appreciate those fleeting times.

It is a question of priority, unplugging, just for a bit.  The world will be just fine-- even if people can pry themselves out of the cloud for 45 minutes.

The table is a great place to connect-- but with the person across the table rather than the person across the country.