Have You Seen a Phone-y? (Of course you have.)

A Phoney is someone who cannot put their phone down despite how rude it is to the other person.

Look out, I’m about to rant.

I don’t know how it became acceptable to look at a phone mid-conversation while with someone else. I don’t know how it became acceptable to text while walking on stairs making everyone behind slow down. To text while driving putting everyone else at risk. To text while walking making everyone else watch out. I don’t know how it became tolerable for two people to go out on a date to spend time together, and one person constantly glances at their cell, as if the other person won’t notice. Why isn’t anyone calling out: Rude. I do not know how it became acceptable to walk into a store, someone’s place of business, and the people working there don’t say hello because they’re on their phones. Even the owner while ringing you up. People are prioritizing being elsewhere and it is rude uude uude.

I get it if someone can only meet at a certain time and is expecting an important call, starting the meeting with something like, “I’m expecting an important call that I have to take when it comes in.” At least that considers the other person’s time. But that’s what we’re talking about here: Are we equal when it comes to spending time together?

Not long ago, when you were out with someone else, there was no phone. It was not that long ago! No one could reach you during that time – and it was okay! That’s why we had answering machines and then voicemail. So we didn’t miss a call. But it’s gotten to the ridiculous, insatiable point that when a call or text comes in, we have to look at the phone to see who’s calling before it even goes to voicemail.

Because of the sudden delivery of information, and the accompanying dopamine rush, texts especially give the illusion of urgency. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t jump at a text the second it comes in. 

To sneak a look at a cell phone every few minutes while someone is talking to you, or unable to stop playing a game when someone wants eye contact with you, or being at a party looking at a screen instead of making an effort with the people around you is carelessness with other people’s time.

It concerns me that “ghosting”, a new-ish term for just not responding, makes minimal respect almost acceptable. That makes me concerned that people are getting lazy with what it takes to connect. Real connection relies on focus and attention. (And dare I add courtesy?)

If you don’t know what I mean, maybe replacing “cell phone” with other items will put it into context. Some hypotheticals:

1. We’re out at a restaurant eating dinner and you’re talking. As you do, I take out a book and read. What would you consider it?
a) Rude. 
b) Understandable. It’s 2018!

2. I’m your boss and you’re pitching me a presentation you worked hard on, stayed up nights for. While you’re talking I pick up a landline phone to answer a call. Would you consider it:
a) Rude.
b) Understandable. I’m a busy person. 

3. You’re in a rush to get somewhere but I’m in front of you walking down the stairs and I’m reading a magazine so I’m moving slowly. Would that be:
a) Rude. Unaware. Selfish.
b) Just the way it is. 

I’ve seen a person on a first date text on their phone while the other person was trying to engage with them. I’ve seen four friends meet for breakfast but spend the entire time busy on their own phones. Why are they even meeting?! Apparently to take selfies with their food. I call that Relationship Distortion.

When someone cannot put down a phone they’re valuing their time over someone else’s in the name of addiction. My kids did a basketball camp in a reputable gym and the coach could not stop looking at his phone. I’m not exaggerating when I say he sat on the floor and looked at it once a minute. He wasn’t engaged at all. At one point I talked to him. I said that kids look up to coaches and I could see he was capable of inspiring them but he’s spending all his time with his phone. I asked him genuinely, “Do you even want to be here?” He said, “Yeeeaaah… it is a problem.” Solved, right? An hour later he was sitting on the floor next to an outlet charging his phone. Major Relationship Distortion. He was coaching his phone.

If you’re still not convinced that time should be respected, and screens don’t replace in-person interaction, let’s use the Thank You For Not Wasting My Time Translator! I’ll put in the excuses I’ve heard from Phoneys: “Well, it’s 2018. Everyone’s on their phones. I can’t help it. That’s the way it is.” Beepboopbopboopbeep. Translation: “I know I’m being rude. But everyone else is, right? Better get used to it.”

I hope we never get used to it. I hope we put away our phones when we have the opportunity to talk to people in front of us. I hope we have the courage to ask someone to put their phone away when they’re being rude. I hope this Decade of Distraction gets a hold of itself and that the next decade is one with more respect and awareness. I hope we recognize the difference between saying “I’m unplugging” and what is actually happening: “I’m plugging back in.” 




18 Comments on “Have You Seen a Phone-y? (Of course you have.)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I loved your article. My sentiments exactly. I know I’m sometimes guilty of the behavior you describe but I basically keep my phone in my purse with the ringer off and aren’t even aware of when I get a text or a call much of the time. However, I must admit that I am of an older generation so it’s not so hard for me I suppose.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thank you so much. The point about it being not so hard is interesting! I would love to hear your thoughts about why age/wisdom/experience makes it easier.

      1. Anonymous says:

        To be 100% honest with you, the main reason I leave my phone in my purse is that if I leave it out, I’ll probably forget all about it and leave it in the last place I put it down. Another reason is that I really don’t want to be distracted by it all the time to see if I got a text or email.

        1. Heather Maidat says:

          Two great reasons. The fact that you don’t want to be distracted is fantastic to hear. It’s possible, people!

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  2. phyllis ragusa says:

    I salute you. I think it amplifies our need for connection and to be seen and heard. I saw a report that people were asked if they’d accept $100,000 to put away their phones for a month and several people said they couldn’t. That’s what we call addiction. It’s more than annoyance and rudeness, it’s slowly becoming an epidemic.
    Great article.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thank you so much, Phyllis. That report is (almost) hard to believe! Great point about needing connection and to be seen and heard – and what’s interesting too is that even with so many more way to communicate, it seems to be more challenging to do just that!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think the worst part is that it is so acceptable. Before phones (yeah, I’m that old) I saw people who brought newspapers to restaurants. And sat there eating and reading. This is not a relationship. This is an excuse not to food shop and cook. What’s the point?

    You write it very well. Let’s turn it into a LAW!

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Law! I love it!

  4. When I am on a date and the girl keeps looking at her phone, I KNOW she is waiting for a call from another guy. Bye! I’m outta here!

  5. I love your use of “Phoney”. You are so right.
    Phoney ADHD is how I see it. When I’m with someone who checks their phone, I know they are not paying attention. I don’t want to be with someone who is incapable of focusing on a conversation for more then five minutes. Thank you for not wasting my time!

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Yes! Isn’t that interesting, “paying attention” – it shows how time is valuable. Thanks for your not wasting your time! 😉

  6. Aileen Gould says:

    Communicating via text back and forth makes me crazy. The only thing worse is when I go to a concert and there are a million cell phones out with their lights on as they tape the concert. It’s a concert not a photographic exhibition for Pete’s sake

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thanks so much for your response! That’s a great point – especially at a concert of all places which is ALL about the live experience.

  7. Wow Heather, you captured the “Phoney” issue perfectly! I’ve been aware of this issue
    with friends and strangers alike, BUT just started seeing this behavior in professional settings recently and it is uncanny! Either way, unacceptable!!

    Thank you for writing this clever and eye opening article AND reminding us to put our phones away.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment!

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