Mar 05, 2018 0 Comments
By Pat da Fo
Quite recently I attended a funeral. Right in the middle of interring the deceased a mobile phone rang with a ringtone set to the The Godfather’s Love Theme. Sure, the deceased was originally from Sicily and that, the juxtaposition of that absurd coincidental mishap against the backdrop of this solemn setting, made us grin; but it was nonetheless rude and inappropriate.
Undoubtedly technological interconnectedness has taken hold of our lives. Whether out of (self-)imposed necessity and/or indicative of potential addiction mobile phones and smart gadgets alike with their myriad of apps and unlimited Internet connection seem to rule our lives 24/7. While social grace and etiquette demand that one should have the mobile phone off (or at least on silent) in a multitude of professional and social settings, most people either ignore or reject the importance of protocol. Ringtones, text-tones and incoming communication alerts are, more often than not, annoyingly boisterous, and the recipients are happily available to interact on the spot. In fact, there seems to exist a pattern whereby whoever is on the other end of the line has precedence of one’s attention over the person that is right in front of you.
However, if you are in the dating scene or endeavouring to maintain and solidify your relationship with that special one, you might want to re-think the ever-present mobile phone. Setting aside mobile phone etiquette (although I wouldn’t – I find having a mobile on the table or close by as off-putting as someone chewing with their mouth open), multiple studies have shown that mobile communication technology hinders one’s love life. Having your mobile phone close by diverts your attention away from the face-to-face conversation that you are having with your partner, and therefore decreases your engagement and responsiveness towards him or her. In fact, the mere presence of mobile phones, even as subtle background objects, impacts negatively on human relationship formation and relationship quality, as Przybylski and Weinstein’s much cited experiment concludes.
Of course, you might possibly argue as defensively as my friends did when I ran the studies by them, that either you can multi-task (that is, you can actively listen while doing something on your mobile phone or gadget), or that it is vital to have the mobile phone nearby because you are a parent or your job demands it. Still, while you can think that you can multi-task – which is in itself controversial – the person sitting right in front of you will feel nonetheless that their self-disclosure has not been listened to with care and empathy. And shouldn’t our best judgment dictate that these responses are what is required? To fully empathize with whatever a partner is communicating one should look straight at his or her face to perceive those tiny signs of emotion that flash into and around one’s eyes and envelop the verbal into a conclusive sentiment.
On the other hand, the calling card of being a dutiful parent or professional does not simply cut it. Generations have survived without the vigilance provided by the mobile phone to a (helicopter) parent elsewhere located. And labour laws are in place, in many geographic locations of the world like Australia, to make sure that workers have free time. There are, of course, exceptional circumstances to both cases, none of which demand that your mobile phone has to be in your hand, on the table, or visibly nearby. Do yourself, and the other, a favour and place it inside your purse/man-carryall or pocket of your jacket or in a different room of your house with an audible ringtone specific for that emergency call that might come your way. And if you have any manners, explain and apologise in advance the fact that you might need to take an emergency call.