About a week ago I had to do a urine drug test as part of a job application. These are annoying but I understand the necessity, so that morning I drank about a gallon of coffee and checked in to the medical center. I sat down in the waiting area and waited for the coffee to kick in. As I was the only person there, I started to wish I'd brought a book.
A couple minutes later a woman walked in, we did the nod at each in other greeting. She checked in to the desk and sat down.
As soon as she sat down she pulled out her phone and was instantly glued to the screen.
A little while later a guy came in. We nodded at each other, he checked in, then he sat down and pulled out his phone.
Now, I'm not an old fashioned, anti-technology, kind of guy, but it really disturbed me that over the next half an hour not a word passed between the three of us. I sat there, twiddling my thumbs, memorizing the health posters on the walls... and they were entirely occupied by "angry birds", or whatever it was they were doing, thumb-typing away.
Not that long ago, before "smart phones", we might have been chatting away, BS'ing about our bosses or work (or how hydrated we were). These days though, as soon as there is a slow second, out come the phones. We're becoming a nation of ADD cell phone addicts.
It's almost like an insulation against the real world, against interacting with fellow human beings. We don't talk to each other any more, we 'go online' and chat with like-minded people thousands of miles away, or we post/tweet about our day instead of actually talking to loved ones.
A while ago, I got an important phone call (about that job application previously mentioned) while I was waiting to get rung up at a UPS store. I stepped away, conducted my conversation, and went to the back of the line. When I eventually got to the front I apologized for the interruption to the cashier who had been helping me. She said, "No big deal", and went on ringing me up. I stopped her, told her that it was a pet peeve of mine when people were face to face and one answers their phone, ignoring the other. She kept brushing me off, I kept telling her that it wasn't ok. It seems that popular culture is adopting the attitude that a phone always takes priority over people in any situation.
Not only does it bother me when people are so rude, it bothers me that this is so common it is 'acceptable' behavior. Seriously, look around when you're out in public, it's like everyone is buried in a phone screen.
When a society avoids face-to-face communication, how long can it last? Right now, we are at a tipping point and leaning the wrong direction. Think about that the next time you reach for your phone.