Why our phones stop us making real friends

The chances are that you’re reading this right now on your phone.  But if not, then when was the last time you checked your phone for messages? An hour ago? Five minutes?  Or has it been in your hand practically all day?

I know!  Me too.  It’s a shocker.  When did we all become so addicted?  So much so, that The Sunday Times mag in its list of things going up and down (my essential reading) names a Facation as a holiday when your spouse forgets to leave their Blackberry at home.  In other words, no kind of a holiday at all.

When did checking your phone all the time suddenly become socially acceptable? When did it become necessary to share everything about your life with everyone? When did it become OK to text and talk at the same time?  Because that’s rapidly morphed into the even ruder habit of tweeting a conversation whilst it’s still going on. So rude!

It seems to me that, increasingly, we are all connecting far more with cyberspace rather than the real world going on around us.  But Facebook Friends and your Twitter Followers don’t count as real life human encounters.

Last night, we went to a comedy gig in the Komedia in Brighton.  It was a showcase for comedians who had done a stand-up course.  For each of them, it was their first time on stage.  As the brilliant compere said, it was not only a baptism of fire, but so ridiculous that their first gig was in the packed Komedia – one of the best comedy clubs in the country – when the next time they go on, they’ll be in a skanky pub in East London where three people show up.  But it was a great evening.

There were two intervals, so plenty of time for the audience to mingle, chat, discuss who goofed and who was great.  In the old days, your partner would go to the bar to get you a lager and you’d sit a bit bored and strike up a conversation with the people next to you.  It was called social interaction and meeting new people.  It was the prelude to how you make real friends in the real world.

But that’s a thing of the past, it seems.  Because as I looked around, EVERYONE was on their bloody phones.  So I joined in and tweeted that I was at the comedy gig.  And then I felt like a twit.

But it got me thinking, because earlier this week, I went to the park with the kids after school and all the Mums were on their phones, paying not a jot of attention to their offspring – which doesn’t bother me particularly – but they weren’t talking to each other either.  Their body language said, ‘I’m far too important and busy texting and emailing other important people on my phone, so don’t approach.’  Fine on a train, but a bit sad in a park.

I’m no better.  Checking my phone is a terrible habit.  One that infuriates my husband, especially since he knows as well as I do that it’s highly unlikely that anyone very important is contacting me for an immediate decision on anything, any time soon.  So why am I ignoring the people I love to read emails from a printing company tempting me to bulk order office calendars, or check updates from Twitter saying that another procrastinating writer is following me back?

What worries me most in all of this is that kids, seeing their parents glued to their iPhones, want a piece of the action too.  We went to a barbecue the other day, where three ten-year-olds were slouching on chairs glued to their father’s iPhones, while the football nets, skittles and garden Jenga that had been set up for them remained untouched.  When questioned, they literally grunted like cavemen.

And now my eldest daughter wants an iTouch for her birthday, but I can’t help feeling that if I get her one, I’ll loose my sunny, chatty girl to an all-consuming little black screen.

In the meantime, I’m trying to wean myself off my own sordid Blackberry addiction.  Especially when I’m working.  I reached out for it just now, but instead went into the garden to smell a rose.  I urge you to do the same.

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