I recently had a disturbing conversation with an old friend. His 24 year old daughter quit her job in Los Angeles and moved back home to Massachusetts. Nothing unusual there. It happens all the time. She liked LA but missed her friends. So home she came hoping to save a little money, make a dent in the student loans, find a new job, get her own apartment and get on with her life. Not so easy…. for my friend, his wife or their daughter. To quote Philip Rosenthal, writer, director and creator of the Everybody Loves Raymond television show, “it’s not that we don’t love you honey, it’s just that….well it’s just that we were planning to put a hot tub in your bedroom.”
What’s That Thing Attached to Your Body?
“What frustrates you the most about her being back home with you?” I asked him. His answer surprised me. “It’s not the clumps of hair in the drain, the permanently unmade bed (which she doesn’t vacate till 11am), the permanently plugged in hair dryer, the lights that get turned on and never get turned off, the greasy frying pan left for someone else to scrub or the look of disdain on her face when we ask her to do something.” “What, then?” “It’s the cell phone. The damn cellphone,” he said. “What do you mean?” I replied. “Well,” he said, “it seems to be attached to her body. I’ve never seen her without it. She’s always texting. Always. Everywhere, anywhere, all the time. It’s as though she can’t focus on anything for more than ten seconds before she’s back to texting. Texting from her bed before going to sleep, texting from her bed when she wakes up (which she doesn’t do till 11am – oops did I already mention that?), texting while she’s talking to us, texting while we’re talking to her, texting at dinner in a restaurant, texting at dinner at home, texting from the bathroom getting ready to go out, texting while using the hair dryer (which never gets unplugged – oops, did I already mention that?). We assumed it was her best friend she was “talking” to but that theory was blown to bits when her friend was over the house recently. There they were, the two of them sitting on the couch not more than 3 feet from each other both of them gazing intently at their cellphones …. texting! Not talking to each other, texting.” I thought for a long moment before asking the question I knew would not have a simple answer. “What is it about her texting that bothers you so much?”
Is it an Old Guy Complaining, the New Normal or Just Plain Rude?
“Well for one thing, she’s not a teenager anymore. She’s a 24 year old woman and there’s something…. I don’t know, disappointing about her not being able to engage in the moment. When we’re having a conversation at dinner, for example, it’s insulting to see her texting while we’re talking. She might as well tell us we’re boring. I don’t know, am I just out of touch with reality? Is this the new communication model where nobody pays attention to anybody and “conversation” is just a series of fleeting snippets, grab what you can grab and keep moving. The whole texting thing is like somebody is chasing you and you can’t slow down for too long or you’ll get run over. Are we going to eventually evolve into creatures with no mouths and large thumbs?” Instead of answering my question, he raised a few new ones. Is he an old guy complaining, is this texting thing the new normal or is it, as I suspect, just plain rude?
And Now Back to You
I didn’t know what to say to him. What would you tell him? Has this addictive texting behavior shown up in your life? Do we have to get used to it or is there still hope that conversation – real conversation where we look each other in the eye when we speak; where we are truly interested in what the other person has to say – won’t die.