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Being There: Stop Checking Your Phone All the Time

By Periscope @periscopepost
Being there: Stop checking your phone all the time

Maybe they're talking to each other? Photo credit: Jamesmellor

Imagine if you actually gave a damn. No, honestly, think about it. If you were in a business meeting, or trying to impress a girl, or in an interview, what are the odds you would wander off mid-conversation to look out the window? Or start doodling? Or change the subject and person to whom you were addressing that subject? Pretty slim, I’ll wager.

If I’m right about you being at least marginally polite, Dear Reader, then you must agree that it’s surprising how many people succumb to the supremely rude habit of consta-checking – perpetually checking their smart-phones for messages every few seconds whilst in the company of others. Unless it’s just that I’m just hanging out with the wrong sort people, but I like to think that’s not the case, as I rather like (most of) the people I spend time with.

In fact, it’s because I like those people that I’d far prefer to actually spend time with them than to watch them tethered to a blinking light screen. For the record, I’m 36-years-old and so a little too young (or at least un-old) to qualify as an old fashioned relic in denial about technological advances. All this begs the question, why? Why do we feel this compulsion to check messages at the expense of the people in whose company we spend our time?

Perhaps people feel the need to check e-mails in the context of their work. The problem with this theory is that it seems in most professions you’re either in front of a laptop with internet access (i.e, working) or you’re moving from one place to the next. In the case of the latter, unless you’re a traveling salesman or a junior associate in a law firm, checking messages every five minutes probably won’t do you much good. One always hears people talking about smartphones freeing people from the office and letting them work remotely, but those people may want to consider whether their mobiles are a release or a leash.

If checking your smartphone so often is not really a work advantage, then maybe it’s something more romantic; maybe you’re checking BBMs or texts or e-mails for a response from someone you’re courting (or, fancy, married to). Just as in pre-mobile days when lovelorn romantics might wait anxiously by the phone (or the mailbox) feverishly deconstructing every word or lack thereof, perhaps this is the modern equivalent: Did she read the text? What does it mean if she’s online but didn’t reply? Will she or won’t she BBM back to my joke? It’s like an earlier age but on steroids. And across at least four different media. Is that really such a healthy thing?

Even people who consta-check when on their own have a negative impact on those around them; nowhere is this more apparent than in the context of travel. Whether it’s pre-take off on a plane, or throughout a train journey there are few things more annoying than hearing the one-way conversation of a person going through a seemingly endless list of speed dial contacts who are apparently desperate to know that “I’m on a train . . . no, it’s just for work . . . yeah we’re leaving now.” Just because the technology exists to communicate always and from anywhere, doesn’t mean there’s always something worth communicating.

So the next time you’re with a loved one, or with a group of friends, or on a train and you find yourself consta-checking, ask yourself: Is this really a polite way to treat someone I care about? What information could I possibly have failed to communicate or will so dramatically affect me since the last time I checked messages or made a phone call? And if you still feel the need to consta-check, well, maybe you should ask yourself why you made the appointment in the first place.

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