First please take a moment to read this article about how your cell phone hurts your relationships. Go ahead; I’ll wait.
Are we back? Welcome back.
If you weren’t able to access that article for whatever reason, here’s the takeaway: Some nice people did a study in which it was shown that simply having a phone nearby decreased the quality of people’s interactions, as long as they were talking about anything more substantial than–literal example here–their feelings about plastic trees.
And y’know, this is something I’ve been saying for a long, long time. So I’ll say it again here, for the record and for all time: I hate your phone.
Here’s the deal: I get it that your phone is your umbilical cord, your wubbie, your teddy bear, your (as the article puts it) “indispensable lifeline to the rest of the world”. I know people for whom checking their phone is the absolute last thing they do before going to sleep; I know people who check their phone before they get out of bed in the morning. I know people who have their phones out while they exercise, while they watch television, and while they eat dinner.
And to a certain point, I get it. It’s handy to be able to hop onto the internet and find the name of that one actor whose name is eluding you, or to be able to find out whether the restaurant you’re considering for dinner has a gluten-free option. It’s comforting, knowing that you’re accessible–and can access other people–at all times; and I’d argue that there’s a little ego wrapped up in that too, feeling that you’re so mission-critical to someone else’s life that they absolutely must be able to contact you at all hours of the day and night. (Hint: if you’re not a foreign dignitary, head of state, religious leader, or celebrity, you’re probably not nearly as mission-critical as you might think. Don’t believe me? Turn your phone off for three hours sometime and see, when you turn it back on, how many messages you’ve missed that really, truly, substantially alter the world around you. I’m going to go ahead and guess the answer is “Now that I think about it, zero”.)
I’m going to let my own ego steer this boat for just a second and note that I currently live at least 30 minutes from pretty much everyone I care about. And lest we forget, I’m a little phobic about dealing with this city–I hate the traffic, hate the crowding, hate the sprawl–so when I do go out, I feel every one of those 30 minutes acutely and painfully, and they come with no small amount of anxiety and dread. Therefore, if I’m coming to see you, it’s because I’ve decided that getting the chance to visit with you face-to-face is worth the 60 minutes (round-trip) of white-knuckled fear. You’re worth fighting back tears. You’re worth needing to take a minute to get my emotions back under control before I come inside to say hello.
So perhaps, given that background, you can start to see why it is that I find it a little bit hateful when I make the trip to come spend time with someone and that person spends the entire visit–or even part of the visit–playing on their phone.
Sure, you get a pass if you’re looking up something we’re both curious about; and sure, you get a pass if you’ve already let me know that you’re expecting contact from someone–maybe you’ve got a loved one in the hospital, or you’re waiting to hear back from a job interview. If that’s the case, I’ll cut you all the slack in the world, especially if, when the call comes in, you excuse yourself to take it, leave the table, and return when your call is finished so I can be the first one to congratulate you on your shiny new job.
But if you’re on your Facebook page? Or texting with someone about some random, trivial thing? Or–god help me–texting with several other people?
Let’s put it this way: if you don’t care enough about me to focus on me while I’m right in front of your face, then I could’ve saved myself a lot of grey hairs by staying home. If I only want to have part of your attention, I can accomplish that online, from my living room, without having to deal with any of the stress this city causes me. And if communicating with people who aren’t there is more important to you than communicating with the people who are, then I’ll just go ahead and join the distant herds, since apparently that’s where your heart truly lies.
So while I certainly can’t speak for everyone else, I can say that at least in my case, the argument that article makes is completely true: your cell phone will hurt our relationship…and if it’s a perpetual thing–if you’re on your phone every time we get together–it will eventually be the reason we stop spending time together at all.
I love you, but I hate your phone. So maybe do me a favor and put it away for now. You can do it. I swear.