Last week I had a long conversation with a man who seemed to be paying his phone as much attention as he was paying to me. And this was somebody who was speaking to me voluntarily; he wasn’t being coerced or humoring me out of a sense of obligation. He wasn’t making or taking calls but constantly referencing the phone. At some points he appeared to be merely looking things up for himself and others ostensibly he was looking them up for me. I say ostensibly because I did not once ask him to go online or into his photos to look up or show me anything. Since I didn’t know this man well, I couldn’t decide what exactly prompted the phone behavior. Does he do this all the time? Was he nervous and using the phone the same way people used to fiddle with glassware or cigarette lighters or anything else that was at hand before phones took over the earth? Is there a specific point at which phone behavior becomes rude and who decides it?
I can understand somewhat that people who’ve grown up with phones might do this – treating the phone almost as if it was another person in need of interaction and attention – but I don’t get how someone, who like me grew up without phones and without constant access to the internet and social media, would be unable or unwilling to let go of it. I eventually asked, “Are you leaning on that?” (My query did not prompt him to put it away nor did it get anything other than a cursory “no”.)
At such times I get this urge to rip the phone out of someone’s grasp and toss it into a nearby dumpster. Or jump up and down on one till it’s smithereens. I can SEE myself doing it. I think: “What if I pulled that out of his hands and threw it in the lake?” “What if I tossed it into oncoming traffic?” I can’t be the only one who gets these notions.
I can tell you this. If I am talking to someone and they accept a phone call in my presence, I am GONE. The only exceptions are if they ask me first or make sure it’s a very brief call. I suppose the whole phone thing could be negotiated but really, do I want to have to “parent” another adult, to have to ask them to limit their phone use when we are together? To set boundaries: “You may look up 3 things and then you have to put that away.” It sounds ridiculous and more trouble than I want to take.