Months of planning, food prep, and financial commitment bring us to the day when the guest arrives. Excitement bubbles. Candles glow. Hugs and warm greetings follow beaming faces. Then…
The ringtone of the guest’s cell phone captures attention. The welcoming party disperses to check on dinner, to open the bottle of wine, to make sure everything on the table is ready for good conversation over a fine meal—and above all, to ensure that the guest of honour has privacy during the phone call.
The mobile discourse ends swiftly with fingers taking up the chat. Head down, digits tapping words of mind and heart, the dinner hosts wait patiently, smiling, believing that all will be well in a few moments.
Chairs pulled out around the dining table, everyone eventually sits. The scene unfolds with the hosts chatting amongst themselves. The guest’s head rises, a heavy sigh preceding an apology. The hosts then watch as the guest gobbles down two forkfuls of food before the chime of the mobile device halts mastication. The guest’s head bobs up and down for the duration of the meal in response to cell phone dings and fragments of dinner conversation. The guest’s fork also bobs up carrying morsels of food to his/her eager mouth, then bobs down again to rest on the plate as hands engage in what seems to be urgent digital interchange.
A smile. A frown. A furrowed brow. Food cooling. Impatience brewing. Unanswered questions. Curiosity morphing to disapproval.
So it goes for the next few days with the guest. Events turn silent as thumbs transmit messages. The hosts begin to wonder if they will be able to enjoy uninterrupted time with the guest. Bearing witness to this mobile social interface, I begin to wonder if the guest could ever manage without a cell phone, as many of us did for the greater portion of our lives.
I threw my cell phones away when moving from the city to rural Canada, wanting to be freed from interrupting ring tones, believing I would henceforth regain minutes and hours so my work, and projects could better come to fruition. Tossing the cell phone would further assure my husband and kids, friends and family members that I was listening, truly listening, complete with eye contact, when they communicated with me. I also weaned myself from social media, thereby curving my supposed need to immediately respond to emails and the like.
Results came quickly. I completed a doctorate degree, wrote novels and articles, joined a Dragon Boat team, and took a Tai Chi class. I ordered books and got excited when they arrived, anxious to read them. I signed up for classes that could lead to a second doctorate. My teaching and volunteer activities flourished. My creative outlets of graphic design, music, and so on, thrived.
Growing Up Without a Cell Phone
Being a kid without a mobile device enabled me to realize various goals that demanded focus along with a significant investment of time. My skills and abilities were encouraged, nurtured, and honed by parents and teachers who weren’t obsessed with mobile-technology. I travelled, studied, was a successful employee, and to this day, I continue to enjoy relationships that were built back when. I felt/continue to feel the joy of seeing a “plan come together”.
Some folks marvel when learning of my life escapades. At such times, I’m left wondering why they haven’t done the things they’ve longed or dreamed to do. No time and no money, they say.
Back to the dinner— “No money?” The guest’s cell phones—yes, s/he has more than one—each cost anywhere from $500 to $1000. Monthly usage is typically $100 per phone. Apps and the like add further to the expense. The cell phones take fantastic photos, create and edit movies, and never hesitate to alert the guest during the wee hours of the morning, not caring about his/her sleep loss.
I begin to question my choice of restraining my mobile connectivity to the world. I question my spending on airfares to visit with someone whose head bobs between eye contact and a hand-held screen. Feelings of being archaic punch me. Then I smile, glad that I can enjoy silence, sleep, and good conversation; and that while visiting, I’m not held responsible or engaged with someone’s insanity halfway round the globe.
Cell service is unreliable where we live. If guests hold their tongue just right, stand on their left foot, and raise their arm towards the ceiling while leaning across the sink, they have a better chance of receiving that text message that trills and beeps, begging for their attention. I watch, amused. I warn VISITors whose devices are attached to their palms that cell service is negligible in our home, thus leaving me not to have to apologize when they try to respond to a post or text.
I feel robbed or perhaps even a bit betrayed by the guest who engages with a cell phone while visiting me (photos relevant to the visit excluded), thereby ignoring my efforts and investments. I suppose I have options—
Don’t invite guests who are forever attached to their cell phones; or
Choose guests that honour the same courtesies of visiting as I; and/or
Insist guests’ cell phones be left at the door.
All seem a bit harsh, but I’m hard-pressed to see any other way that yields an enlightened social experience.
Productivity suffers significantly when employees are consumed with personal cell phone activity in the workplace, not to overlook security issues that abound on many levels. Our province fines motorists who use their cell phone while driving, for example, stating that safety is impaired by the lack of focus required to effectively operate a vehicle.
Employers complain about employees who spend time on their phones when they should be working. A quick Google search will show links to documents such as Use of Cell Phones – HR Handbook, or an article spouting information about the average worker spending a full day of each work week doing things other than work, this resulting in 8 hours of lost productivity per work week.[i]The same article goes on to say:
If the office is mostly comprised of younger workers, the amount of lost time jumps dramatically. Employees ages 18 to 34 rack up 70 minutes on mobile devices and 48 minutes on personal tasks each work day—the most of all age groups—a total of just under 10 hours per week.
Don’t get me wrong… I love INSTANT just like the next person. INSTANT gratification and instant yield are rewards hard to ignore. Instant access to information is a helpmate when I’m researching and traveling. My cell phone has saved me time and money, has connected me when stranded, has soothed me when worried, has guided me when lost, and has even provided me with some privacy when not wishing to connect with the stranger sitting next to me on the plane or train.
I respect cell phones. I’m excited by the electronic industry forever improving products while creating new ones. I’ve always been one to relish in the future—the hope of advancement that the future can offer. I want my future to include personal advancement.
What I do know is that my creative yield and advancement depend on the discipline I exercise when it comes to my love of technology and all that it can do to help me achieve my goals.
What I don’t know is how best to handle the guest whose cell phone takes priority over visiting. When I’m old, it’s the voice and faces of family and friends that I want zooming around in my thoughts, and not the memory of being ignored when time had granted an opportunity for togetherness.
i Morris, Chris. July 25, 2017. Fortune>Careers>Employee Productivity. TIME INC. http://fortune.com/2017/07/25/cell-phone-lost-productivity/ [accessed January 15, 2018]