I've got my new Blackberry Z10 (and even had time to get the replacement for the first handset when it had problems). Except for the problems that I had with the first phone restarting itself for no discernible reason, I'm really enjoying my new unit and have found it quite capable of living up to the early marketing hype.
Shortly after receiving my new smartphone, I found myself sitting at a friend's kitchen counter having a conversation with him. Except, I wasn't really paying attention to the conversation. He pointed out to me that I was actually checking my email and texts and playing with the phone rather than listening to him.
I wondered at first if I was just a kid enjoying my new toy. But, then I realized that it's not unusual for me to click through my phone while carrying on conversations with people. I Google answers to trivia questions that have come up during our talks. I check the wunderground.com radar to see where storms are located. I check my email just in case someone has sent me something that needs an immediate response.
But, is there really the need for immediate answers and immediate responses?
When I was growing up, you would call someone on their hard-wired phone. If they were not at home, either the phone would continue ringing, or their answering machine would eventually pick up. If they were home, they would either pick up and talk to you, or they might choose to let the phone ring through to the answering machine. You would leave a message, and they would get back with you when it was more convenient.
Somewhere along the way, we decided that mobile phone changed the nature of communication. We now expect people to be available at all times, no matter where they may be. We call people and expect them to respond immediately to our call. If they don't answer, we text them to ask why they aren't answering the phone.
I can't count how many times I've sat in governmental meetings, or even religious services, and heard someone's cell phone ringing. It's distracting, it's annoying, and it's rude.
But, what's worse? Forgetting to turn off your phone, or calling someone when you know that they're in a situation where they can't answer?
When my friend pointed out that I wasn't paying attention, it made me start noticing how other people use their phones. I can stand out in front of the News office, and it's very likely that at least half of the motorists driving past are on their phones while driving, not just talking; but, also texting as they drive. The Legislature worried about the situation enough that they passed a law against using cell phones while in a school zone, though it's tough to resist answering when you hear that seductive tone.
Walk into any restaurant and one quick look around reveals just how prevalent cell phone use has become. At a table of four, one person may be looking at the menu, one person is talking to someone on their phone. The third person is checking in on facebook. And, the fourth person is texting a friend. The concept of dining together seems a bit pointless, as everyone is preoccupied with their smart phone and all the things it allows them to do.
As signal availability and strength continue to improve, we are more and more likely to increase our use of our phones. We already send messages to people sitting in the same room with us rather than actually talking to them, so it's only a matter of time before we simply stop talking at all. When we do type messages, we make spelling errors and use unnatural abbreviations, and now we no longer know how to effectively communicate with the written word.
I would urge people to try days without their phone. As difficult as it might seem, we should all just try to give up our phones for short periods of time until we can be assured that we don't have to be on them all the time. If someone asks why you didn't answer your phone, tell them you didn't want to and decided it was more important to play with the kids or talk to your wife.
Chances are, we might begin to discover that 24-7 connectivity is not as great as it may have seemed. And, we'll discover that there are some pretty great people sitting at our table that we've been ignoring for far too long.
It’s all just my opinion.