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Texting and Talking: The New Smoking?

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31 Responses

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    I absolutely agree. I’ve noticed this on many occasion: a person alone by him/herself looking clearly uncomfortable until some small technological device of some sort is pulled out (cell phone, iPod, Blackberry, what have you) and whatever fear, insecurity or anxiety that was predominant is now in retreat. This is perhaps more noticeable to those of us who don’t own or use such devices. I wonder about the ability of our young people to sit alone by themselves, quiet, observant, thoughtful even, without the often unnecessary distraction of these devices. I know, I’m something of an old fogey, but if someone as young as Brannon can think something is amiss here, perhaps this is indeed something to think more deeply about.

  2. Frank says:

    Well, I hope more people opt for texting instead of talking. Trains have become cacophonous. The funny thing about both modes of communication is the network effects–the more people opt for this type of always-on communication, the more they induce others to join, as you have more and more of a chance of having a new email/text to respond to.

    The absurdum at the end of the reductio: Twitter (see http://twitter.com/).

  3. acm says:

    Breaking: People Have “Small Technological Devices,” Use Them.

    I don’t get it. When one is bored, should he (1) read the news or e-mail on a “small technological device,” or (2) post to a law blog ridiculing people who chose the first option?

  4. Larry the Sparkburger says:

    I can see why a doctor’s office or another similar venue might have signs asking people not to talk on the cell phone – others may find it distracting and annoying. But what’s wrong with texting? Are the non-texters so sensitive that even when they see someone intently focused on quietly reading the screen and punching the buttons, their heckler’s veto should put an end to that activity?

    On a recent visit to the Georgetown U. Law Center, a secretary pounced on me and insisted that I flip off my cell when I was simply trying to retrieve a phone message from a faculty member who, it turned, had called to tell me he’d be late.

    Maybe it would be better if people did crosswords or quietly contemplated their place in the universe, but so long as they aren’t creating a distraction, I don’t see why all possible uses of the cell phone and blackberry must be banned.

  5. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    I have yet to see an argument that proposes “all possible uses of the cell phone and blackberry must be banned.”

  6. _Jon says:

    Two points:

    Texting can be annoying if the person’s receive notice is very loud. I expect we will see signs regarding “put phones on silent”.

    How long until the “go outside” mentality of using the phone is transferred from smoking?

  7. andrew says:

    I had similar thoughts about the connections between smoking and mobile phones, although with a rather different angle, a while back: http://digipath.blogspot.com/2005/09/philip-morris-hates-vodafone.html

  8. M. A. George says:

    As another old fogey, I have a visceral repulsion at the sight of people constantly isolating themselves from what is going around them via cell phones and texting. I cannot excatly put my finger on why. I am reminded of an old complaint via Suetonius, refering to the Roman people –”They could not stand for a moment that it be quiet.” Quiet in the sense of being alone, not talking, not contacting, not communicationing. Just alone and quiet, in thought, in observation, undistracted. Do people across the centuries have a common fear of being alone with their thoughts? Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

  9. DaveG says:

    Do people … have a common fear of being alone with their thoughts?

    Well, hell yes! I do! My thoughts: “blah blah blah,” all the live long day. You know, when you know me as well as I do, you find that I haven’t all that much to say, particularly to myself.

    Yes, any distraction is precious. This is why, at 45 years old, you will still see me reading Highlights for Children while waiting for the dentist, and you will see more and more instances of “forced CNN” in airports and doctors offices.

  10. dick says:

    What irritates me is to be walking with someone and their phone rings and they have to answer it right then while we are in the middle of talking.

    I also wonder about people who are walking down the street with friends and both of them are on the phone talking to someone else.

    Then there are the people who keep taking out their phone and checking for messages and then a minute later take it out checking for messages again. Is it possible for one minute to be alone?

    The two absolute worst for me were the woman who was riding on a commuter bus on the way home and kept announcing to her husband that we were at such and such a place or at another place and doing it loudly and the other being the guy whose girl friend had broken up with him and he had to spend the entire one and one half hour bus trip in rush hour calling up all their mutual friends and telling them what she had done and asking them why she had, what reason she had, etc, all loudly so that the whole group of us had no peace at all. I really felt like telling him the reason why she broke up with him was because he was such an idiot and she had a very good reason to do so.

    One other I just remembered was the girl who looked like a model and rode the same bus cross town Manhattan that I did. She would get on the bus to meet her girl friends to go shopping and the first thing she did was call one of them up and ell her all about the date last night. She did not shut up the whole way across town in rush hour when the rest of us were on our way to work. She was just totally oblivious to anyone who was not interested in what her life was like and that was the rest of us who were sitting near her.

  11. inmypajamas says:

    This is definitely one of my pet peeves – being forced in a waiting room to listen to the loud, inane conversations of people obviously trying to hold boredom at bay. I teach my kids that sometimes life requires down time and you have to learn to be able to handle it with just your own resources.

    We have signs in our office requiring cell phones to be off in the exam rooms. I have many patients to see and I don’t have time to include a patient’s cell phone conversation in my visit. It is simply not fair to the other patients. Most patients understand and respect that – we just have to have the signs for those who don’t get it.

  12. MathMom says:

    M. A. George at June 23, 2007 01:20 PM

    I think of people isolating themselves with electronic distractions as a form of Autism. You have an iPod with Your Music (don’t ever have to listen to a song at random from the radio that might displease you in some small way), you isolate yourself with your earphones, you text your friends, you receive your emails, you TiVo your favorite programs, to watch when you want, you drive through the Rocky Mountains with your children in the back seat watching a DVD of The Little Mermaid, or playing with a GameBoy, instead of seeing the wonderous sights that nature provides. You never have to wait through something that is not Your Choice, Your Personal Environment.

    There is a huge value in learning to deal with boredom, with whatever is at hand. Why not strike up a conversation with the person in the next seat? Why not look at a National Geographic in the doctor’s office and learn about cetaceans? When we started taking our kids on long road trips (as infants), they learned to look out the window, and watch America rolling by. When my younger, Plugged-In son wanted a DVD player in the new Suburban, and told him there is a great DVD playing out the window, and to live with it, or bring a book. He didn’t like it, but he’s much more interesting because of it.

  13. Jonathan says:

    Wow. Bunch of Luddites here. Incredible.

  14. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    Assuming I know what you mean by Luddites, there’s nothing here on the order of opposition to technological change or progress as such, but rather a critical, thoughtful, discriminating attitude to the use of technological products, to considerations of possible social norms or informal rules of etiquette involving the use of same. And what, pray tell, is wrong with that?

  15. Tom says:

    So most of you people would be miffed if I sat in a waiting room and talked to a friend via cellphone. Would you also be miffed if I sat in a waiting room and talked to a friend who had accompanied me there?

    If not… what’s the difference?

  16. CaptainNerd says:

    I’ve noticed an even more disgusting trend, and that’s cell phone use in rest rooms. I feel very sorry for the person on the other end of the call who gets to listen to the ambient noises. Nothing I want to talk about, no one I want to talk to, is so important that I need to inflict bathroom noises on them in a conversation.

  17. wjr says:

    The Luddites were not actually protesting technology per se but were protesting the sociological results of technological change by attacking the physical representation of that change — e.g. the machines.

    So, Jonathan is correct and you lot are the worst form of Luddites.

  18. Kevin Murphy says:

    Four people walk into an elevator. Three of them immediately pull out their Blackberries and start texting. Happens all the time.

  19. jimboster says:

    I guess I’m an old fogey, but I am totally amazed when people are purchasing something at a store

    and they more or less ignore the existence of the clerk at the checkout counter- like he’s some kind of ATM machine they don’t even acknowledge as a human being. It’s so incredibly rude, yet I see people my age doing it, too.

  20. Kevin Murphy says:

    So most of you people would be miffed if I sat in a waiting room and talked to a friend via cellphone. Would you also be miffed if I sat in a waiting room and talked to a friend who had accompanied me there?

    If not… what’s the difference?

    The main difference is that, talking to one’s friend, one would remain cognizant of the surroundings.

    Talking on the phone, the rest of the world drops away and people speak much louder and use words they normally wouldn’t use in the surroundings. It’s the difference between a quiet conversation and the crazy man in the corner yelling into his hand.

  21. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    No Luddites to be found anywhere, either literally or figuratively.

  22. Tom,

    One big difference is that the people around you can’t eavesdrop on both sides of the conversation, and it’s annoying to not know all the details of what is going on :)

  23. DaveG says:

    I am totally amazed when people are purchasing something at a store

    and they more or less ignore the existence of the clerk at the checkout counter

    I’m equally amazed when that same clerk will answer the phone and leave me, the customer that actually came to the store to, you know, buy something waiting while he deals with the person that can’t be bothered to leave their home. Pet peeve, that one is, but I admittedly collect pet peeves the way a widow collects cats.

  24. Mel says:

    I can see why a doctor’s office or another similar venue might have signs asking people not to talk on the cell phone – others may find it distracting and annoying. But what’s wrong with texting?

    What’s wrong with texting is the same thing that’s wrong with talking. There are only a few areas in the hospital I work for where we disallow cell phone use and it isn’t for noise reduction. Some of the phones operate on the same fequencies as some of the equipment we use to save lives. We can’t know who has the interfering phones, so we ask that no one use them.

  25. BladeDoc says:

    The phones interfering with medical equipment thing is now obsolete. The “brick-like” analog phones of the 80′s used a lot of power and may have done so (although data on this is soft too). The new digital phones do not interfere in any meaningful way. The hospital in which I work would grind to a halt if cell phones were banned.

    It’s easy btw to see who has the interfering phones. Look for the brick with buttons.

  26. Murdoc says:

    It’s the difference between a quiet conversation and the crazy man in the corner yelling into his hand.

    So you’re saying if I’m not a “crazy man in a corner yelling into my hand” I am completely free to talk on my cell phone, right? If I don’t speak unnaturally loud, if I don’t go out of my way to interfere with other people (excepting, of course, the hyper-sensitives who decide to be appalled by everything), and if I speak in more or less the same tone and manner I would if someone were sitting beside me, it would be all right?

    I didn’t think so.

  27. jk says:

    “So most of you people would be miffed if I sat in a waiting room and talked to a friend via cellphone. Would you also be miffed if I sat in a waiting room and talked to a friend who had accompanied me there?

    If not… what’s the difference?”

    Posted by: Tom at June 23, 2007 04:04 PM

    I think one of the differences is that homo sapiens are probably hard-wired into thinking that people who (apparently) talk to themselves are nuts.

    Even if we know better, the taboo remains. Sort of like eating certain insect larvae: we know they’re full of protein, but….ugh.

    Same feeling I get when I see someone ostentatiously holding what I can easily imagine to be a one-way or even imaginatary conversation on a cell-phone.

  28. Mischell says:

    People are mostly herd animals. If seperated by distance from their own herd, they electronically rejoin their comfort group, and thusly never go without support.

    It is a kind of nuerotic behavior that may be impossible to resist possibly similar to other things we do to improve possibility of self preservation.

    I believe it must be addictive and rewarding (with some sort of brain induced endorphine,) because even with multiple reminders I still hear cell phones ringing when I am at the movie theater.

  29. inmypajamas says:

    Luddites unite! For those non-Luddites, the simple explanation for turning off the cell phones or taking the call outside is that it is just plain rude. As in, bad manners. You are ignoring the people around you and holding forth in a monologue that no one can escape and that is usually excruciatingly boring to those not involved in the conversation.

    But, if you don’t get it, nothing will ever make you get it. You’re the ones we have the signs up for.