Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Textual Relations

Sometimes I worry about my social interactions, and then I run across somebody so socially inept it makes me feel superept.

One recent night, we were having dinner.  A family I'm acquainted with was also having dinner with their extended family.  The daughter, who is late high-school, maybe early college-age, had her phone in her hands when the family sat down, and spent the meal with her hands in her lap, face pointed down, smirking and giggling, except for the occasional pause to slip a furtive fork of food into her mouth.  When anyone at the table asked her how school was going or about her interests, she'd answer in monosyllabic responses, in a cartoonish, baby-voice and go straight back to tapping out texts on her phone.

I sure hope that girl is more interesting in her surely excessive emoticons LOLs, and textspeak than she is in real life, because at that table, in the presence of her family, she was coming off as a thoughtless, vapid little twit.

Where were her parents?  They were right there.  Were they even noticing how rude she was being to everyone at the table?  It's hard to know for sure, but I'm guessing not.Would they have been as okay with their daughter sitting at the dinnertable with all their family, with her face poked in a book?

On second thought, they might be pleased to see her reading actual words.  Huh.

I guess you could say it really irritated me, seeing this girl ignoring everybody at the table with her in order to keep up with her end of a textual relation at dinnertime.  Her family at least was pretending that she was interesting enough to engage in actual conversation.  She could have stepped up and done the same.  She would have had the easier task in that bargain.

I'm not anti-technology.  In fact, I love technology.  I have my iPhone with me all the time.  I use it to listen to music, keep track of where I'm supposed to be, to make grocery lists, to record Zoe's milestones, to take pictures, make notes, play Words with Friends, check in on Facebook when I'm out and about, find out if I'm heading in the right direction when I'm lost, to check the weather, or read a book or play a game when I'm sitting bored in a waiting room.  Ironically, I rarely get phone calls on my phone.  Texts are even rarer.

I don't always get it right, when I need to be social face-to-face.  Sometimes, my mouth gets ahead of my internal filter.  Or I don't say something I should.  Other times, like when I'm hearing for the zazillionth time the same argument over who had it the hardest growing up, I check out completely.  There's no winning that argument, since the combatants are so committed to the argument itself, that I make an exception to my own rule about not using the phone when I'm around actual people.  But at least I make an effort to be polite and interesting in person, even when there's an inevitable argument brewing.  The more practice you get, the better you get at it.

I don't know what'll become of that girl at the dinnertable with all her textual relations.  I kind of wanted to watch and see what would happen if all of a sudden, the battery in her phone died, or the cell network went down, or somebody dropped hot soup in her lap and all over her phone.  I kind of wanted to stick around and see if she'd be able to form a complete and coherent verbal sentence or if she'd just sit awkwardly silent, an S-E-G pasted across her face as she'd check the blank screen every few seconds.

Kids these days worry me, sometimes.

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