Dear Readers: I’ve briefly stepped away from my column to work on a new writing project. This week, I’m rerunning topical Q&A from 10 years ago. Today’s topic concerns our relationship with our cellphones.
Dear Amy: I have a good friend who is very nice, very thoughtful and very dependable. Whenever anyone needs to reach her, my friend is just one text message away. But that is just what seems to be the problem — she is always reachable, and her phone is always there, ringing off the hook with text messages.
I recently spent time with her, and we hardly talked for the few hours we were together, because of her constant receiving and sending messages. She was texting at least three times every five minutes. I appreciate that whenever anyone needs to text her, she never fails to answer promptly, but it is extremely annoying to witness.
I feel as though when I hang out with her that I am really hanging out with her phone. What is the best way to approach her about this?
— Annoyed with Texting
Dear Annoyed: I don’t get it. Unless your friend is a paramedic on duty or perhaps a renowned heart surgeon waiting for the delivery of an organ to transplant, why is it necessary for her to be in constant contact with her circle of connections?
I agree with you that it is very annoying to watch someone you’re with read and respond to text messages. Furthermore, it is exceedingly rude of the person to do this with abandon when she’s with you.
Perhaps the next time you’re together, you should send your pal a text, telling her how this habit affects you. Here goes: “Dear friend, your constant texting while we’re together is driving me nuts. Let’s both put down our phones while we’re together. I’ll start.” (This message measures exactly 140 characters — in case your friend is also addicted to Twitter.)
After sending your text, turn off your phone and toss it into the middle of the cafe table. Dare her to do the same. (July, 2009)
Dear Amy: One of my oldest friends always keeps his cellphone on when we get together. I have commented many times that it is rude to inflict private cellphone conversations on others. He insists that because I never had children, I don’t understand (his kids are all adults).
His favorite recent excuse is that the sales orders he writes for the factory he works for keep many people employed. He claims I am unreasonable because I am an only child. (We’re both 62.)
The last time I saw him — after the fifth call — I exploded. It was a business emergency, but in my opinion the call could have waited.
The fact that the last time was an emergency isn’t an excuse, from my perspective. The only alternative may be to take separate cars when we plan activities, or just not get together. I think this person shows little consideration for others.
I don’t think there is room for compromise — it’s his way or the highway. I am ready to take the highway. What is the etiquette here?
Dear Denis: Etiquette is all about consideration and respect, and this highway runs in both directions.
Cellphones permit people to conduct business while out at a ballgame or on a fishing trip. They also let family members notify one another in emergencies. Unfortunately, cellphones also let people be in constant touch and report in real-time what they are eating (or thinking about eating) for dinner. This constant reportage is obnoxious and boring to witness.
Of course, there is room for compromise. If you and your friend are together during work hours, then he should take work calls, within reason. It isn’t for you to decide what is or isn’t a legitimate work call.
Your friend should not take personal calls while you are together. You two can work this out by agreeing to some very basic ground rules. Your intractability and his slings about your personal situation aren’t helping. (Aug., 2009)
Dear Readers: Are you curious about my background and life outside of the confines of this space? Read my two memoirs: “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town that Raised Them,” and “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things,” available wherever books are sold or borrowed. You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram: @AskingAmy; on Facebook at Facebook.com/ADickinsondaily.