Chapter 3 – Modern Communication

I’m still young apparently. I’m 26. People tell me I’m still young and that feels good to be told. But in many ways, I’m much older than my years suggest. Aside from being unable to stand up or sit down without making an involuntary “Ooh” sound, and being quite happy to be sat in front of the telly with a hot chocolate by 2100 on the occasional Saturday night, this is most apparent to me in my attitude towards modern conversation.

I went to the pub during the week and was dismayed by what I saw. 40% of the people in there had their phones on the table next to their drinks, face up as if they were expecting the call to tell them their wife has gone into labour. The other 60% had their phones in their hands. That’s right. I had walked into a room full of zombies where at least half of them were not actually socialising with each other.

Even for my age group, I cant be the only person that finds this disturbing. How can you go to a pub with friends, then spend most of your time talking to other people who aren’t even in the room? If you need to contact someone, either do it without ignoring the people in the room, or, if you really have to, go outside, call them, have a quick conversation and wrap it up quickly, rather than subjecting your friends to the back cover of your phone all night.

I am just old enough to remember being in a pub or restaurant and seeing people speaking to one another across the table. I remember when phones were only used for phone calls and irritatingly short text messages only. I even remember a time before mobile phones, when you were forced to speak to each other with no other distractions. When you had a house phone (remember them?) which sat on a table of its own, perhaps with a pad of paper and a pen for message taking.

And I miss those times. People used to go on walks or trips or holidays and enjoy the sights with their eyes, rather than through a 2 inch screen, or whilst uploading a picture of their breakfast to Facebook. People used to get on a train and read a book made of paper rather than staring gormlessly at level 783 of candy crush. Presidents used to make policy announcements at press conferences rather than on Twitter. It was a classier time.

Do you remember life before emojis and “txt tlk”? This has become almost a second language nowadays. I have a friend who sadly had to have their pet dog put down once. Obviously, this was on Facebook within 5 minutes, and soon followed by messages of condolence from well meaning strangers (most of which i suspect were sent by people who were ignoring their real life friends sat opposite them in a pub). But one person made a mistake which caused the Facebook equivalent of a riot. Rather than the sad crying face, they had (I presume accidentally) sent the “crying with laughter” face. An easy mistake to make, but for people hiding behind their phone screens, apparently not so easy to forgive.

Easier mistakes to make though are the acronyms which the early days of texting invented for us to save us money on the original “pay per character” tariffs. Thinking “LOL” means lots of love instead of laugh out loud is forgivable, especially as it is usually placed at the end of a message and still usually makes sense. However, it is really bad when your message reads: “I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your son. Our thoughts are with you during this tragic time. LOL.”

It’s a minefield. Maybe we should revert to an ancient, yet surprisingly efficient communication method: Talking.

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