New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, January 15, 2010

Togetherlessness

This scene in a restaurant is far from unique to New York City, but what particularly struck me was the absolute resoluteness and immediacy with which these two women wielded their phones after sitting down. One immediately began texting,  the other speaking on her cell phone. They continued through the entire meal without saying a word to each other.

Reading through numerous articles and online forums, I was actually surprised to see what appears to be an overwhelming majority who find the use of cell phones at dinner (at home or in a restaurant) rude and unacceptable, including younger people. The reasons cited were many, but most felt that eating is a social activity. Some also made the point that pulling out a cell phone during dinner makes a statement of relative importance - an insult to those who are physically there. Others, however, stated that among teenagers particularly, texting and phoning maintains a continuity of contact with their social circles. The whole phenomenon has created quite a furor, with many individuals seeking counseling.

A lot has been written since the rise of the Internet and cell phones about the nature of electronic communication technologies and whether they are tools that isolate people or bring them together. Like any other tools, they can be used or abused. There are many individuals who, for any number of reasons, have a limited social circle, and communication technology has allowed them to make new acquaintances. For some, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have much live social contact with others, perhaps due to health issues or living in a remote geographical location. For others, communication with existing friends and family is broadened beyond the time they are able to spend together physically. One could also argue that in aggregate, all the new methods of communication - texting, calling via cell phone, instant messaging, emailing, video calling, voip - have increased communication.

Personally, I try to limit cell phone conversations at dinner to receiving calls that are extremely important or where the caller will be difficult to contact. Like most things, this is a matter of degree and circumstance. People have answered landline phones during dinner for decades. In the case of these two women, they are both involved simultaneously and look quite happy sharing time together doing something they both enjoy. I'm sure the debate will rage on - whether what we have here is rude, antisocial, or perhaps a new form of social behavior -togetherlessness :)

9 comments:

An Honest Man said...

Brian,

There is without doubt more contact, but whether it is communication is a different matter.

kyungmee said...

great post. I have to say I own a cell phone, computer (internet), and stopped there.I use my cell phone rarely and find it curious that so many people like in this image.. texting and talking on cell phones non stop while together for a meaningful length of time! But I am now these days communicating a lot more and meeting people like here on your blog more these days;) I try not to spend to much time but it can be addictive and powerful means to have such a contact. So..I guess I would say like anything else in life..all in moderation:) And to enjoy all of this with creativity & sensitivty:)

Eric Calabros said...

she texting and you taking photo.. both by phone :-)

BrotherGee said...

Commendable observation. There is nothing that i wish to add. Your post says what needs to be said. Anyone with a gram of objectivity in them will recognize and understand what is being said here.

All Love,

~~ G

Frau said...

I couldn't agree with you more....it's so sad. People don't talk anymore, I tell my 15year old go call so and so and her response is I sent her a text....!

Mirela said...

The photo says everything! Great capture... I have to say I've been lucky, most of my friends reject their calls during dinners/outings and focus on people present. There was one friend who'd constantly text or talk on the phone, which lead to our revenge - constant nagging about it. She got the idea and stopped that very annoying and incredibly rude habit. I honestly think there's no need for anyone to get out of the house at all if they plan to spend the time with their friends completely ignoring them.

morethanaphotoaday said...

Just found out about your page. Really impressive, as I always find it most difficult to catch the scenes of your own town (in comparison to taking pictures of the remote, strange, new towns when you are travelling e.g.).

Brian Dubé said...

An Honest Man - That's true, but could be said about in person contact as well.
Kyungmee - moderation. quite sensible.
Eric - actually I took this with a point and shoot camera, not a phone.
BrotherGee - why thanks.
Frau - I dont text much - I find it to tedious and I spend substantial time online and use email.
Mirela - congratulations on ur success.

naomi said...

I wonder if we are ever going to stop this behavior or if culture will just continue to grow around this form of socializing.

Could something else replace mobile communication?