, , , , ,

People have become telephones.

You’ve all, I’m sure, had that experience when you’re in a meeting or engaged in a conversation with another person, and a phone rings. Without question, the party whose phone it is will respond, occasionally by picking it up and hanging up straight away but more often than not they will answer it. Since the event of the mobile phone, particularly the smartphone, this occurs more often as we don’t have to be in a formal environment to experience this phenomenon any more. It happens everywhere. In addition, we expect someone to answer a phone immediately we call, because we would do the same.

It’s Pavlov’s Dog for the 21st Century. What is funnier is that if someone in a group takes out their phone, it is 90% certain that the others in the group will check theirs.

Now it might just be me, but here’s what I’ve noticed. If I am in a conversation with somebody, it’s now common for someone to walk up to us with the intent of speaking to one of us and then just interrupt. And, strange as this is, whoever they seek to speak to will immediately disengage from their original contact and start talking to the newcomer. It happened to me last week, it was always happening at work. And what is really odd is that, even knowing this, if someone interrupts my conversation with another to speak to me, I am just as likely to turn away from my original chat to engage with the interrupter.

Is that your experience? Have people become so accustomed to the immediacy of the mobile ‘get me anywhere’ telephone that now people have to be answered immediately, too? Are we so familiar with the phone’s impersonal and intangibly reasonable ability to interrupt without being judged that we think we can do the same and interrupt people in person? Why isn’t this seen as incredibly RUDE?

At least the telephone has the manners to ask first.