I’m instituting a new friend rule: if I am going to eat a meal with you in a restaurant, and you are not paying for my meal, your phone stays in the purse or pocket. Even if you are paying for the meal (thank you!), but you still expect me to enjoy it - turn.your.phone.off.
How did we get to a point where this had to be said?
We were all issued our smart phones around the young age of 22 when we had it in our heads that the longer our hours of availability, the better we were at our jobs. We were, therefore, better people, because at 22, success at work was our sole definition of success as people (is this getting preachy? I’m just getting started).
These were scarily formative years. Back before iPhones (so, for me, a month ago), we were living and dying by the blinking light of a BlackBerry. A red blinking light. Where else do we see red blinking lights?
That’s right: bombs.
It’s no wonder, then, that we got it into our subconscious that the blinking red light of the smartphone was as urgent - if not more - than the blinking red light of a bomb timer. Now, even without the blinking red light, we envision an ominous countdown clock that starts the moment a work e-mail or call comes through to our phone.
I did an experiment recently, and, it turned out, nothing blew up when I didn’t respond to a work e-mail within 10 minutes. Nothing bad even happened. I was able to send a thoughtful response two hours after the e-mail was sent, and (guess what), all was good with the world.
This is huge progress. While I’ve always been fairly considerate about keeping the phone away during meals/other plans where live socialization is paramount, there was a time in the not-so-distant past where I was sleeping with my phone. To clarify: not on the nightstand - in my bed. Usually in the hand-adjacent part of my bed, at that.
Sadly, I know I’m not the only one with a phone boyfriend.
The tremendous anxiety that this attachment caused over time, in retrospect, might have been a key factor in this whole nervous breakdown/career change.
Let’s be real, though: there is no level of importance one can reach in their life that allows him to keep a phone on and out at all times. You are either not critical enough in the corporate hierarchy to warrant living and dying by the e-mail, or important enough to decide to check out of cyberspace for an hour and be in the moment with real people. Further, perhaps I am wrong, but are there really solid deals, clients or jobs out there that will go away if a phone call is not returned within the hour?
There are a few exceptions of people that can leave their phone on/out during a meal: on call doctors, parents with sick children, children with sick parents, person waiting for news about potential illness and person waiting for a call from another country that will be virtually impossible to return. Essentially: actual life and death matters.
There are a few exceptions of instances where it is appropriate for the phone to come out when you are not one of the people listed above: checking people in (with their permission!) at a group dinner, taking photos of food (if that’s how you roll), showing pictures that are stored on the phone and checking your availability for the next dinner. Basically - when the phone can be used as a device to enhance the live social experience, not take away from it.
So put your phone away. Or you’re covering dinner.