Cassandra Juoy implores us to put down the iPhone the next time we’re meant to be socialising (yes, we know it’s difficult) – just because something is now accepted doesn’t make it any less rude.
Two young women pulled out their phones to take selfies at an Anzac Day service.
It promptly inspired a circular, but honestly concerned Facebook discussion. Was taking a selfie at such a time disrespectful and selfish or was it honouring the moment by attempting to commemorate it? Perhaps it was a just an unintentional lack of reverence?
Or perhaps the issue runs deeper than the fact that these women took selfies. I think fewer would have complained if these two women had used cameras instead of mobile devices.
Call me old-fashioned, but I admire my colleague’s choice to procure a pocket calculator for business meetings. I admire my lecturer’s decision to use a portable clock in her talks. Inspired by them, I am actually considering purchasing a real-life torch for camping.
Of course, the question is, why would any of us bother? Each item is an extra gadget, an extra thing to tote around to business meetings and lectures and the bush. It would be far, far simpler to pull out the mobile, flip through the screens, and access the desired function rather than be stuck punching soft buttons, turning our eyes to the innocent face of a little plastic clock, or waiting for the torch battery to die without warning.
Where is the practicality in a gadget with only one purpose?
We are increasingly able to access anything at any time, whether our mobile device of choice happens to be a tablet, mobile phone, or smart watch. Need an ambulance? A heart-rate monitor? An Encyclopaedia of the Amazon? Access to your bank account? The details of that last Facebook invite? Photos from the last trip to the zoo? The time? It’s all contained within a single device that slips into our pocket or bag, and when given the option of downloading a nifty app to do the task it’s ludicrous to consider purchasing a gadget that is limited to only a single function.
However, that is exactly the point. It’s a gadget with only one function.
Our mobile device is our social life, our workspace, our resource centre and our personal life all in one. As soon as we touch our phone in a meeting, social gathering or event, we have not only opened the required function, but also have accessed every other area of our life. Whether or not we use it for the required purpose alone or also indulge in a quick scan of the inbox or newsfeed, we have glanced past the shoulder of the situation and impolitely, disrespectfully, viewed issues external to that moment.
When we pick up our phone, we pick up countless other matters. We detach ourselves, become inaccessible to the other person through our accessibility to things irrelevant to the current circumstances, as though we were refusing to meet another person’s eye in conversation.
Of course, we seem to have reached a point where it is now generally acceptable to use devices in company, not merely for required purposes but also for irrelevant activities. We have also reached a point where it is acceptable to openly whisper in the presence of other people. Whether on account of laziness or perhaps by the momentum of a cultural tidal-wave, things we once condemned are simply passing into acceptance. Acceptance, however, does not make something any less rude.
Practices such as needless device usage and public whispering have key commonalities – they unkindly exclude someone and inappropriately include someone or something else. Irrespective of the evolution of societal norms and practices, common courtesy will always constitute keeping actions and matters to an appropriate time and place by giving the present company and moment the right and proper attention.
It should be you, me and a calculator in this meeting; you, me and a clock in this lecture; you, me and my neat, new torch under the stars.
Not you, me and the rest of my social, personal and business life.
The fact that we often question possible disrespect only in circumstances about which we feel more strongly or harbour a deeper sense of honour and patriotism surely reveals our hypocrisy in more general situations.
Having an extra gadget, a way to not take out the device in except as a phone as much as possible is a way of keeping ourselves open to one another, keeping from distraction and distance; it’s a way of saying “I value this moment” and “I value and respect you.”
Or, at the very least, “You are a fellow human and I respect that.”
That’s what humans should do.
If this really doesn’t concern you by all means use your phone, but just remember that in matters concerning decency and respect and honour, you’ll have already dug the moral high ground out from under your feet. Not only that, but at some level you’ll have missed out on properly experiencing the moment, too.
Let’s pocket the device, pick up the camera and stay in the moment.