Screen Distraction

This is how I would describe the old days:

Back when I was growing up, people actually had to call each other. I hated it, of course, as the next person, but we had to use our words. Our real fighting words and use all the strength that we had to articulate what we wanted or not want. We had nothing with bright screens in our pockets, no mini computers that we could tuck into our bags. We had to use our minds and our faces to communicate. When we are the movies, it was often blissfully silent, minus the crying baby and talking people.

And then things changed. It started first with flip phones—people forgot to turn them off. Then it was the smart phone. It wasn’t the text messages or the phone calls that became disruptive, but rather the addiction to the apps on these phones. The message, the email, the snap…that had to be read. We had to know what was going on. Because our fear then was the fear of missing out.

That’s how it is now.

Case 1: Yesterday, at a show, I suddenly couldn’t help myself but look at a nearby neighbor’s phone screen. It wasn’t a text message, but her browsing Linkedin. Then it was looking at long email. Then it was looking at a website. Then it was her fidgeting with the phone. Turning it on and off. What was she looking at, I had wondered, that was so much more engaging than what was on stage? What was that interesting? So I peered over. So I followed her eye movements with her phone. Minutes passed as she went from app to app until she noticed that I was watching. Then she put it back into her clutch out of my sight. But she couldn’t help pulling it out 30 seconds later and I whipped my head again toward her direction, the bright light distracting me again. It must be important. So I must know.

Case 2: The show was ending, and the performances were becoming lackluster, whether due to the performers indulging in too much alcohol and weed. I couldn’t tell, but they weren’t on top of their game. But then I heard chatter. “Oh my god,” one girl said. I whipped my head around to hear what they were saying. “sssshh,” someone said. The two girls were laughing and looking at their phone, their voices carrying over the audience and hopefully not into the performers ear. Their conversations must be important, I thought, so after several minutes, I got up and marched over to them, standing right in their space. “So I came over here, because I wanted to know what was so interesting about your conversation.” I said. “Because I can hear you about 25 feet away.” One girl walked away immediately and the other continued talking loudly, her voice now clearly slurring. “You know, I am with my best friends and they really want me to be here. I don’t know, I don’t really want to be here. But I am, so you know. Like are you even understanding? Do you know what I am? I am obnoxious, I know….” I didn’t understand her words and said something to the effect, “Did you know that everyone can hear you? Your volume is so loud that it’s rude to the people on stage. I care about the people on the stage and want to be respectful. Do you want to be respectful?”

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