I saw it again last Saturday night. At the restaurant where my wife and I were sharing a nice dinner on a snowy Saturday night there was a couple at the next table who spent a good part of the time reading/typing on their mobile devices. They were not talking, nor glancing at one another. The really sad thing (at least as far as I am concerned) is that is not all that unusual.
Now this is going to make me sound old – maybe older than I am, but I remember when there were no mobile devices and you actually had to have a conversation with the person with whom you were sharing a meal. You couldn’t fake a call from someone in order to get out of a bad ‘blind’ date or any kind of date for that matter which just made it much more challenging BTW.
Look around any restaurant for someone sitting by themselves. Perhaps they are waiting for someone(s). Maybe they are eating alone. But how often do you see a single person just sitting there looking out and around, not on their mobile device? Of course many people read a book or magazine (electronic or not) when dining alone but I recall from black and white movies a time where someone would sit in a restaurant and not read anything and simply just sit there and wait, and think. Could you imagine?
How often during your waking hours do you not engage in some sort of stimulus? That is, how often do you just sit, stand, or run, and think without any other stimulus (think iPod)? I think for many people this is happening to an increasing degree (in the U.S. at least) and is inexorably changing not only the way people interact but even more significantly people’s ability to spend idle time simply thinking about whatever crosses one’s mind. It’s even more prevalent for people under 30 who appear to me to never stop interacting with technology when not in the presence of others. Is there any time that they just sit and do nothing but think or day dream?
It goes way beyond the seeming inability of people to spend any idle time. Answering an email or phone call when in the presence of others when 99% of those contacts are not emergencies is not multi-tasking in my opinion. How can you make the person you are with feel that you care about them or what they are saying when you stop to answer a phone call, text or email? But somehow that’s become the norm rather than the exception. People not only have difficulty being idle, they feel the need to manage two interactions simultaneously.
How about you? Do you spend quiet time just thinking? No music or electronics of any kind. Quiet. Can you? Will you?