Friday thought #63 The demise of human interaction

I’ve written about this before, but it is something that continues to bother me every day. Yes mobile phones have their place, they are incredibly useful and a wonderful modern invention, but what irritates me is that now wherever you go you are literally surrounded by people on their mobile phones. On a train or a bus, standing outside a shop, walking down the street, even whilst riding a bike. Have we really come to the point where we cannot physically function for more than 5 minutes without looking at a screen? What happened to reading a book, reading the newspaper, talking to each other, or simply looking out the window and enjoying the view? I recently took a long train journey from Innsbruck to Geneva and absolutely loved the peace and tranquility of just sitting and relaxing without having to concentrate, and more importantly without having to drive! No distractions, no internet, just the chance to read, write and chat. Lovely.

I teach a few lessons a week in a secondary school and was absolutely horrified during my first few lessons to look up and see students playing with their phones in the middle of lessons. Who on earth does a teenager sitting in a lesson need to contact? And why? Without even touching on how incredibly rude and disrespectful it is to the teacher. Whilst at school pupils do not need a phone, indeed I managed all the way through my schooling life without one. If a young child is walking home from school on their own and the parent wants them to have a phone to contact them en route, fine, hand it in to the teacher at the start of the day and take it back at the end. That’s what happened in the school I previously taught in and it worked just fine. It terrifies me that today’s youth are growing up in a world where mobile phones are not just convenient and useful, they are an everyday essential, just as food and water are. Children as young as 8 or 9 now walk around with smart phones, and teenagers can’t cope without one glued to their hand at all times.

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I saw on the news recently that a chef in Leamington Spa had controversially taken the decision to ban mobile phones completely from his restaurant. In his words; “It’s rude. If you’re coming out to eat it’s about conversation and breaking bread.” Unsurprisingly there has been plenty of backlash but good on him for standing up for his principles, and personally I couldn’t agree more. I continue to be appalled looking around a restaurant, cafe or bar and seeing both couples and groups of people, not talking, not socialising, not laughing and catching up with friends, but staring at their own phones in silence. Why bother going out and paying to eat if you are going to behave like that? I am pleased to see that other restaurants have followed suit, including Michelin-starred restaurant Turner’s in Birmingham, and some of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, however the sad question this raises is why does it take a ban being imposed to force grown adults to communicate and stop being rude?

Speaking of which, having your phone sitting on the table during dinner should absolutely not be allowed. Why does anyone think this is ok? Mid-meal or mid-conversation with your family it is not acceptable to take your phone out and look at it. As far as I’m concerned, this is simply another way of saying “Sorry but what you’re saying isn’t very interesting and looking at my phone is far more important.” Why does the presence of a phone change the rules of standard social etiquette?? And to add insult to injury, most people nowadays don’t even look at it when it makes a noise, they just check every five minutes, just in case someone texted them and they missed it…

AAAAAAAAAHH! I fear this is a problem which will only get worse so unfortunately I am probably ranting in vain. My only hope is that more people come to their senses and realise that you don’t need to check your emails 24 hours a day, and once upon a time it was rude to interrupt conversations and meal times; some believe it still is……

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