(Editor’s note: This column is a reprint from 2010) S ome time ago I wrote a column about how technology — specifically cellphones, text messaging and email — were rapidly becoming the preferred method of communication. My point in the column was we’re rearing a generation of children who seem to prefer text messaging to talking.
I recently spoke with a reader who said she thinks cellphones are a much more serious threat to society. She believes cell phones, besides the effect they have on faceto face communication, are creating a society of rude people.
Whether it’s texting or taking a call at an inappropriate moment, the reader said cellphones have made people more rude and disrespectful than ever.
Sorry I did not write them all down, but here are some of her points:
• It’s rude when people text message other people while they are trying to carry on a face-to-face conversation with someone.
• It is also rude to take a cellphone call while you are carrying on a face-toface conversation.
• Someone standing behind you in line at the grocery store while talking on a cellphone is annoying. Wait until you are out of the store to make or receive calls.
• When you go visit someone in their home, turn your cellphone off or only accept calls that are urgent.
• People on dates should not take cellphone calls, unless again it is an emergency.
While some of what she said may sound nitpicky, there were some good points here. The bottom line of all this is there was a time in our society when people interacted directly. They were polite to one another, courteous and respectful. When you interacted with others there was not the distraction of a cellphone attached to someone’s face when you were talking with them. You had their undivided attention and, if you were a guest in their home or they were your guest, your attention was not on someone, somewhere else.
Technology has created instant access to those people we want to talk to. The automatic impulse you have when your phone rings is to answer it — unless, in another form of rudeness, you are using caller ID to determine who you do and do not want to speak with.
But maybe we all shouldn’t be so accessible. The reader is right, we take calls in the most inappropriate places — the checkout line, the bank, at school, in the library and while visiting friends and family. I have had people tune me out because they are busy chatting away on the cellphone with someone when I’d like them to be talking to me.
Maybe we ought to take those around us into consideration the next time we pick up that cellphone to fire off a text message or chat with someone. Times have obviously changed, but maybe they shouldn’t have when it comes to just being polite.