Saturday, December 20, 2008

Phones and Mannerliness

I was just listening to a fascinating BBC Start the Week podcast, discussing various issues of architecture, and a new book of collaborations between poets and astrophysicists. But a throwaway comment near the end of the podcast threw me, and it's something that always comes up whenever middle aged people discuss how that dang new-fangled technology, mobile phones in particular, have changed the way we interact with people.

One person, I think it was the host, Andrew Marr, mentioned how it's become acceptable to excuse yourself from a conversation with people standing in the same room with you to answer your mobile phone. He described it as caring more about a piece of technology than about a person. But there's a person on the other end of the phone.

They're trying to connect with you from quite far away, and are connecting much more tenuously than these people who are right in front of you. There is a fragile bond connecting you and whoever is calling you, a shaky cellular transmission. It's only fair that this other person should supersede the people in the room with you. The folks standing face to face with you have a much stronger connection with you, and so don't need your help. You can let them go for a few minutes to pay attention to someone through this much more tenuous link.

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