I have a friend who is glued to her iPhone almost all the time; sometimes she even checks her e-mail at red lights while driving. I tolerate this okay most of the time, but when we're out having a conversation or eating somewhere and she whips out her phone, it's not only irritating but mildly insulting, as if I alone cannot hold her attention. How can I tell her she's being an asshat nicely? Or at the very least to encourage her to get over her phone dependency?
Real conversation is so last year. Pretty sure I read that on Twitter. Why interact with the person across from you when you can just text someone else, then look around awkwardly until they receive it and respond?
It's one thing if your friend is a doctor or a really inefficient drug dealer who needs to keep her phone handy for on-call duties, but it seems that more and more we are now trying to fill all the voids and awkwardness of social interaction by simply not allowing them to exist.
Most of us have been guilty of this at some point. We like to think we're so good at multitasking that we can tweet and text and e-mail about Reaganomics all while giving a handjob. But we aren't fooling anyone, says Harry Lewis, one of the authors of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness After the Digital Explosion in a New York Times article. "No one thinks someone on the cell phone can really be paying attention to another person," Lewis says. If your friend is a cyberchondriac, you might try scaring her into submission by telling her that excessive multitasking has been shown to damage our health, and "can lead to chronic stress, with potential damage to the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems. Fatal accidents are more likely too." You can definitely yell at her for e-mailing while driving, even if it's "at a red light" which is about as solid an excuse as my friend who once got caught watching hardcore anal porn on the internet and said, "It was just on!"
To play devil's advocate, a smart phone is great to have whenever you're fighting with someone about what the lyrics are to Salt-N-Pepa's "Shoop." (Girls, what's my meat-fix? Hen!) On the other hand, it's not only disruptive, but it takes you out of the moment and into some most likely unimportant Facebook comment stream about the OMG blizzard that you don't even care about because you live in California. You could always ask your friend to wait to use her phone until one of you goes to the bathroom, which is what I do when I'm itching to see how many people liked my new faux fur Russian hat on Facebook (11 and counting!). But it's not unreasonable to ask friends to set boundaries in social settings, which are rapidly evolving due to social networking and our A.D.D. Sometimes we need to be told we're being asshats. That's what friends are for, right? To keep us from becoming adorable faux fur Russian asshats (12 comments now!).
Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at AskAnnaSF@gmail.com.Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF