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Mar 30 2014

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Instant communication hinders real connections

Lauren and Ashley got together for lunch at their favorite haunt. They started in on conversation that had been on hold for too long while checking the menu and placing their orders.  Fifteen minutes into catching up on the latest, Lauren’s phone rang and she answered. They began sharing again, but twenty minutes later another call came in and then another.  Their much-needed time to reconnect was hijacked. While connecting with people electronically, we’ve managed to neglect relationships with those we care about in real time and space.

Some restaurant owners are countering this problem by eliminating cell phones from the dining experience. Customers must relinquish their phones as they enter. They check them like coats and retrieve them when they leave. Patrons can enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant and converse without interruptions.

A sign at the No Sweat Café in Helena, Montana reads: “Please check your guns and your phones at the door.”

Cell phone usage in the workplace is also problematic:

Kirsten’s bleach-blonde head hovered over the towels she folded as she sat in a hunched position. She balanced towels on one leg and her phone on the other. After folding a few towels she’d stop to read a text message, then answer it—thumbs flying in response—fold, text, fold.

Kirsten meandered her way through the salon to put away towels, head down, intently tracking messages as she went. When her client arrived, the receptionist broke into her zoned-out world. Kirsten startled and raised her big blue eyes, looking dazed. She finished texting, put the phone in her pocket and greeted her client. When her client’s hair was done and she left, Kirsten grabbed her phone to check for more incoming messages.

In another incident, a woman peeked out of the manicure room wondering if or when Kirsten was going to finish, as she said she’d be back after waiting for a coat of polish to dry. The woman had waited half an hour. The receptionist found Kirsten in the break room mesmerized with texting. Needless to say, she no longer works for the salon.

Addictive cell phone usage is epidemic. People don’t focus on people. They’re driven to distraction by social networking. Throngs yammer away on Blue-tooths or are so engrossed in texting that some bump into other pedestrians, then blame the other person!

A UK study found that one in ten people manage to hurt themselves by walking into a lamp post while looking down at their mobile phone screen. Walking and texting injuries are so prevalent in London that lampposts in some parts of the city are covered with pads.

Worse yet, “death-by-text” is on the rise: people saunter off curbs into traffic unaware or text while driving and lose control. An episode of “1,000 Ways to Die” on Spike TV simulates an account of a guy driving his pickup truck while text/fighting with his girlfriend, about where he was going to pick her up. While walking, she was so intent on messaging that she stepped right into the path of her boyfriend’s truck and was killed.

Nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving distracted driving in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, 500,000 were injured in 2008 in accidents involving some form of driver distraction, the US Department of Transportation reports.

To combat this surge of deaths, New Hampshire is the latest of 19 states, along with Guam and the District of Columbia, to ban texting while driving.

The real tragedy is when police officers fall victim.  A New York Trooper, age 31, was killed when her patrol car collided with a tractor-trailer. Investigators stated that driver inattention, hence, texting, may have been the cause.

Electronic devices are positive communication tools, but if we alienate others, detach ourselves from the real world, or injure or kill, as a result, they need to be limited. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” then describes opposites like “a time to weep and a time laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Here’s one more—a time for using cell phones and a time for a time-out.

By: Jill Darling

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