Yesterday, my corporate honcho friend, Jayant, went from being super-happy to being super-depressed, in a matter of two hours. And when he came crying to me, I told him it’s his own doing. He’s calling me insensitive but I want you all to tell me if I was right or not.
Yesterday he was all excited about going for lunch with an old friend, a girl he used to have a crush on, in school. They had lost touch over the years and Facebook got them back in contact. Their date began on a great note but soon the girl told him he’s being rude and left the lunch in-between. You know why? Because Jayant-the-stupid was texting on his cellphone the entire time.
‘What’s rude in that? I wasn’t talking on the phone, just exchanging some important messages,’ he asked me. ‘It is definitely not done if a human being around you has to compete for attention with a gadget in your hand,’ I said, knowing well that I, too, suffered from always-checking-the-cellphone-syndrome. But one day of being on the receiving end of this treatment made me realise how it feels when the person you’re talking to, is constantly typing away on his or her mobile.
It could be anyone doing it… your friend, your spouse, your colleague or even your teenaged son/daughter, and they may think that they are attending to something earth-shatteringly important … but you know what, it’s wrong and you should not put up with it.
Things have become worse with Whatsapp or BBM or imsg or some such nonsense that doesn’t even cost anything… or so you think. What it could cost you is your friendship, your relationship… or simply your basic manners.
Here are three ways of dealing with people who have a cellphone surgically attached to their hands:
1 Set a rule that your meeting with them will be cellphone free. Unless your friend is the Prime Minister of the country or an emergency surgeon, there’s no reason why he/she can’t put the phone in the bag for a little while. Actually, even the Prime Minister can. Cellphones have made it possible for us to stay connected all the time, they haven’t made it necessary that we do.
Constantly exchanging messages with someone remote only shows that that person or email is more important than the real conversation happening in front of you. And if that was true, you would not have been sitting here in front of someone else. And two-timing’s never right, is it?
2 Don’t carry on talking to someone whose eyes (and thumbs) are constantly on the phone. It’s wrong to be wasting your words on a person who may be uploading his dog’s picture on Facebook as you speak. If you stop saying anything, the person is bound to look up and in all probability, will say, ‘Go on, I’m listening.’ Just reply, ‘No it’s okay.
First finish what you are doing as it may be important.’ That usually gets the point across and they put the phone away. You need not be rude to a rude person, and there shouldn’t be any guilt in saying something that’s only logical. Just remember to be clear, not sarcastic.
3 Pick up your own phone and text the person sitting in front of you, saying something like, ‘Hi, sitting here and waiting for your full attention’. It may seem like a joke but would make them realise that others feel it’s the only way to get their attention and how that’s just not right, or acceptable. A final word to those addicted to texting or checking their cellphones all the time. I know you are itching to say that it’s necessary and you do it only because there are important work-related mails or messages to answer, which can’t wait.
Remember that this is how all addictions begin. We start out by replying to crucial messages and soon it becomes a habit for us to attend to everything on our phone instantly… even if it means forwarding a joke while you’re having a meal or a conversation with a friend who may feel ignored. And remember, the phone companies have a vested interest in giving the facility of typing out multiple messages in one go, but that should not make you forget that the very definition of SMS is Short Message Service, while we end up typing essays on our phone.
This time when you go out with friend, try ditching the phone instead of ditching human beings around you. Believe me it feels good.
Sonal Kalra will no longer be called ‘Phonal Kalra’, after this piece. She will make sure she texts this link to all her friends throughout the day.