Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Do You Care?

Sunday I wrote about a 140conf speaker being told to close his laptop during a presentation. The very next morning I was at the Dillon Lecture Series and attended the luncheon afterwards. I was checking my email on my phone before the luncheon got underway, and someone a few people away said in an exasperated tone, "Patsy, please tell me you are not texting!"

I replied, "No, I'm checking on the condition of a friend who had surgery this morning."

"Oh, okay," he said. Then went on to say to others nearby, "Did you hear all the phones go off during the speech?"

I did not get a chance to ask him later, and I didn't want to embarrass him at the time, but I wanted to ask why he cared if I was texting. Of course, he didn't seem too concerned that he might embarrass me, but two wrongs don't make a right. Regardless, why did he care what I was doing.

I was not saying a word, unlike the others creating an uproar in the room - talking at a volume I considered far too great. I was not disturbing anyone in any way. If I were having a text conversation with a friend, why is that any different than having a conversation with the person sitting next to me? It seems it should bother people less. Are you just concerned because you can't eavesdrop? Why do you care? What difference does it make? I wasn't engaged in conversation with him or anyone else at the time. Why is it anyone else's business what I'm doing on my phone?

For the record, it wasn't my phone that was ringing during the speech. I had turned mine off. Of course, we all forget that on occasion and I just chalk it up to the law of averages. It's not a huge deal. I find a phone ringing to be less troubling than someone dropping something. We consider that an accident. Why is a ringing phone such an assault? You would think people have been offended by an ethnic slur being slung at them the way they snarl at the person who neglected to turn off their phone. Now, when people answer their phones in the midst of a speech or something, they get some ire from me. But if they quickly mute the ringing phone it was just an accident - lets all calm down.

I've never understood why people are so bothered by someone talking on a cell phone. Why is that any different than people talking in general? Psychologically, the answer is about eavesdropping - the fact that we can't hear the conversation in context is what disturbs people. Although I'm a fan of "overheard conversation" and have cataloged some of it on this webpage, cell phone conversations only bother me if they're overly loud, which they often are.

I'm going to have to come up with some response to people, because this is becoming a frequent issue for me. This is at least a dozen times something similar has happened in the last few months. However annoyed people may be by me using my phone - which I still don't understand - I can guarantee you I'm about twenty times more annoyed by them saying something to me about using technology as a tool when they aren't equally annoyed by others doing the exact same thing without technology. One of these times some unfortunate person is going to get my pent-up ire and that's not going to be pretty. I don't want to be that person.

So, I'm trying to figure out why people care. That seems to be step one.

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