I just got back from a business meeting in Calgary. While I had a great time at the conference I noticed some disturbing developments since I last ventured into urban society. You see, up here in small town Peace River, we live a quiet simple life. Although many people have cellphones and Blackberries, I find the use and existence of them somewhat less ubiquitous than that which I witnessed in my travels.
First, when I got to Grande Prairie I stopped at Starbucks to get a doppio espresso. As I walked in I saw a family sitting at a table. Two of the four people, the mother included, were 'visiting' while reading the texts on their cellphones. Do they do this at supper time? What does that teach your children that you can't pay attention to what they're saying for more than five minutes without looking at your bloody cellphone?
Then I got on the airplane in Grande Prairie. Even after two announcements informed all passengers to turn off all electronic devices and stow them until the plane was at full altitude and the seatbelt light was off, two schmos next to me had to be told by the stewardess to turn off their Blackberries. They didn't even hear her the first time. She had to repeat herself like she was talking to a couple of children. And the way they reacted to her request leads me to believe that may have been the case.
We landed in Edmonton and you want to know the first thing most people on the plane did when the seatbelt sign went off? That's right. They grabbed their Blackberries and cellphones and made sure they didn't miss any crucial calls or texts informing them that something they said was "LOL".
Once I got to the conference, I thought things would improve. Surely, a room full of professionals would have the decency and respect to not only turn off their gadgets but refrain from using them while someone was speaking. Guess I'm old fashioned, because I was wrong. I know people are busy, but can they not wait until the break between speakers? No matter how often you check your Blackberry, the e-mails will still be there.
It will take no more time or less time to deal with each e-mail if you check it more often. The frequency with which you check your e-mails has no impact on how many you receive. It's like those people who think every time they watch their team play they always lose as though their observation has some impact on the outcome. In fact, I would surmise that the more often you check your e-mails the more you will receive because you will see only 2 e-mails and say 'Oh, I only have two, I'll reply to them right now.' This then begets a reply. You then realize you missed something in the first e-mail and address it quickly. Another reply. 2 replies. Had you left it until later when you could fully concentrate and crafted a more thorough response dealing with all the important issues raised in the e-mail, you would have received only 1 reply. There. You cut your e-mail traffic in half.
Most users of these devices argue that they are a great advance in human history because they bring us together and shrink our world. I can't help but conclude the opposite: that cellphones and Blackberries have actually increased the distance between us, made our communication less meaningful, and diminished our common sense of civility.