Too Much PDA

BlackBerrys, iPhones, even lowly flip-top mobiles all offer today’s college student the ability and ease to check his or her e-mail on the way to class, or to text a friend while studying in the library. Yet what I’ve noticed in the past year is that our generation is, ironically, becoming more out-of-touch in terms of personally connecting with one another while we’ve been able to keep in-touch with others through our various electronic devices.

At a class dinner once, I noticed a few of my classmates standing in a small circle, scrolling through messages on their BlackBerrys instead of initiating conversation with one another. The scene struck me as both funny and sad; “funny” in that all three pairs of eyes were glued to their respective screens, and “sad” since what was a perfect opportunity to talk turned into yet another chance to check e-mail.

This isn’t to say that I’m pointing my finger at anyone or condoning my peers for wanting to stay in-touch via internet. I understand and value the luxury modern technology has afforded me, and I myself am culpable of occasionally writing a text message while talking to a friend in-person. What I’m calling for is that we spend less time attached to our electronic devices (both in the literal and metaphorical sense), and more time focused on strengthening our social relationships through meals, coffee-dates, etc., without the need to check messages, Facebook and what-have-you every five minutes.

A couple of months ago, I had the misfortune of seeing He’s Just Not That Into You at the Hamilton Movie Theater with a group of friends. Terrible movie aside, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the bright light coming from the cell phone of a teenaged girl in front of me, who was staring at her text message inbox for the duration of the film. Although she wasn’t intentionally being rude, her choice to stare at her cell phone rather than watch the movie with her friends sends the message that what is on her phone’s display is more interesting than what is on the movie screen, and that she isn’t mindful of others in the theater who may actually want to watch the chick-flick. I’ve also had the experience of talking to a friend or acquaintance and feeling a little put-off when he or she looks through his or her PDA while I’m speaking.

Similar to the movie theater girl, people who focus on their electronic devices while someone is talking to them come across as disinterested and inconsiderate, even though, I am sure, they don’t mean to offend. After experiencing, or should I say, enduring, the aforementioned instances, I have suppressed the temptation to text or check messages on my cell phone while I’m talking to a friend–or anyone, for that matter.

My advice for those who want to become an expert in tech-etiquette would be to realize that you’ll be fine without a mobile device in your hand 20-or-so times a day. I’ve had friends who have been able to significantly cut back on Facebook, so I’m sure that limiting your time spent on BlackBerrys, iPhones and other equally addicting devices is a feasible goal.