Monday, June 23, 2008

Texting Instead of Talking

My wife and I went out to lunch yesterday. I noticed a young couple sitting at opposite sides of a table near us completely ignoring each other while thumbing out text messages on their cellphones as they waited for their food to arrive, and then resuming this activity while waiting for the check after they had eaten.

My first impression was that there was something very wrong about this. Why weren't they looking at each other and talking to each other face-to-face instead of writing to other people miles away whom they couldn't even see or hear? Was their relationship that lousy? Was this bizarre but increasingly common scene unpleasantly symptomatic of the age in which we live where face-to-face human contact and interaction has given way to iPods and text messaging that is destroying social connectedness and cohesiveness? Or am I just an old fogey out of step with the times and unable to appreciate the new dimensions of personal enrichment and social interaction opened to us by the electronic wizardry of our mp3 players and smartphones?

Maybe I'm not that much of a fogey. For I do appreciate, probably as much as any younger person, how deep and rich written communication can be via computer and the Internet, and, perhaps, if I were more adept at texting, I'd understand that the same can be achieved and enjoyed with a cellphone.

Yet, I can't see myself ever sitting at a restaurant table with my wife while both of us ignore each other as we text message other people. Something about that still seems wrong. I'm not sure I can explain precisely what it is. For instance, what if this couple had been talking to people instead of texting them on their cellphones? Wouldn't that have seemed more acceptable, and, if so, why? And how would my wife and I ignoring each other in the restaurant while we text messaged others be all that different from our ignoring each other at home while, as is taking place right now, my wife sits at the desktop computer in the computer room and I sit here in the living room composing this entry on my laptop?

Still, I hope that my wife and I never end up doing what I saw that couple doing yesterday, and, if we do, I hope that we immediately put down our cellphones, look each other in the eye, and talk to each other.

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