10 min., 32 sec.
In our digital age, there is unprecedented expectation and pressure to be always “on.” Armed with smartphones, we’re expected to be available for text messages and emails at any time – even calls, if you’re part of the dwindling population that still uses the phone… as a phone.
When I got my first iPhone years ago, I went through the expected honeymoon period with it. I loved all of this handheld accessibility. I still do; I’d be lost without it. My iPhone is a vital, convenient and fun tool for my personal and professional life.
But, in my experience, this unbridled connectivity has a hidden price.
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Okay, I know it was Harry Potter in a Times Square multiplex on a Saturday night, but… What’s with the smartphone usage during a movie?
In a darkened movie theater, we all know how rude it is to hear a cell phone ring or, worse, someone actually carry on a phone conversation. But checking texts, the FacePlace, Twitter or whatever lame justification one can make for illuminating a mobile device is just as rude to the people immediately nearby and behind. It’s another marker of a selfish “living room” culture of monkeys who behave as if there are no other people to consider.
Whenever I am in a situation where I am asked to sit in audience to a play, a movie, a speaker or merely a conversation with one or more friends at a restaurant table, I give myself and my attention over to the situation as a courtesy. As a human with a sense of courtesy and – I hope – a modicum of self-control, I sign an unspoken contract in these situations to offer my undivided attention. Even in social situations, where I am often tempted to “work the room” with my eyes while talking with someone, I really try to treat the person I’m speaking with as if he or she is the most important person in the room.
We can’t go two hours without checking messages? Personally, I’m relieved to have a legitimate excuse to turn it all off and enjoy the break. This weekend, when I went to see Harry Potter 7 at the AMC 25 on 42nd Street (again, I realize the hazards of said geography), I felt bludgeoned with illuminated smartphones as well as audience members who have an innate ability to sit down and be quiet for two hours. Seriously? My dog has more self-control.
I don’t agree with the method of the guy in Philadelphia who shot a man during “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” on Christmas 2008 because he wouldn’t shut up, but I definitely see his point, which is: Turn off the gadgets, shut the fuck up, or stay home.