Cell Phone Fatigue – Maturity, Sophistication and Stupidity

Today was ‘obtain  groceries day’, my favorite time of the week.  I needed to walk approximately four blocks from where I live to a shopping area which includes two  chain grocery stores, a  chain bookstore, a few  chain clothing stores, chain restaurants, etc. – in other words, your typical shopping mall.  About the only thing truly different/unique about this shopping area, it is one block from the beach.

I had forgotten  a new (to the mall)  chain clothing store had its grand opening today, however, things seemed fairly tame by mid afternoon, so I decided to take a peek.  There were not a ton of people and the people there were not buying a great deal of “stuff” ,in spite of major sales prices all the way around. 

As I walked around the store (in the future, when I have money, I might shop there), I noticed overwhelmingly a large number of people on cell phones.  What was most interesting was noticing the cell phone users were adults, not teen agers, as I would have expected. 

The adults were  virtually acting as if they were “hiding” while talking and looking at items of interest, as if America were a communist country and some one might take their cell phone away.   No one seemed to care if anyone overheard their conversation…..I had to say, excuse me, to get by as the adults on the cell phones could not talk, look at objects and be aware of their surroundings.  It was astounding.  There were women with children (a few with one child in a stroller and one or two walking alongside), women with their friends, women alone, a few men on cell phones (mostly younger and probably bored with girlfriend/wife shopping), yet there they were having individual conversations which were mostly unrelated to this store.

“I understand her hair is short. Can’t you use some other way to straighten it?”, “What do you mean he doesn’t want to eat dinner with us?”, “Of course I can pick the kids up from school.”, “No, I have not been working but I need clothes.”, “Yo, dude. When she gets done, we are coming by.  I wish she would hurry it up.”,  “I don’t care what you think, I just called to tell you what the purses looked like.”,  “This looks just like _______, which used to be here.”   and so on……

If this were a group of teenagers, I could understand the lack of maturity. Teenagers are extremely insecure and need to cling to anything that will feed them a modicum of self esteem.  This was a group of adults – even older adults!  The people on cell phones were talking so loudly (even though they were “hiding”) the din in the store barely drowned them out.  I guess these people do not understand a sophisticated person would attempt to be polite and discreet and actually pay attention to the people in their immediate environment……

It was amazing how many people could not push a cart, talk on phone, etc. The level of stupidity observed by these adults who could not multitask while using their cell phone was beyond my comprehension.  Are there that many emotionally insecure adults in this area which need their self esteem fed by cell phone contact rather than real people contact?  It was so isolating. It seemed as if everyone was autistic, except people with autism generally have a focus – even though it might not be the same focus as those around them.

As I was grocery shopping, I began to think about the people in the grocery store on cell phones. It was alarming. No wonder we need to pass legislation about cell phones and driving.  I wonder if we need to pass legislation about cell phones in public shared spaces, much like cigarette smoke.   How does any work  ever get done if people are not mature enough or focused enough to put the cell phone down (I have had cashiers at the grocery store texting between ringing up customers and upset that some one way buying a product they needed to ring up!)? 

I use to think about how so many people could afford cell phones…..now a cell phone is a regular commodity.  Now I wonder if some of the problems we are seeing at school with child behavior are not from innoculations, rather, it is from parents not attending to their children so the parents CAN attend to their cell phone.

As I began walking home, I realized how much I value my family and friends. I appreciate being in the same room with them and having meaningful conversations, not shallow blurbs while I am out.  I was aware of what was around me and stopped to smell the roses or, as was the case today, observe the beach.   I noticed the sunlight and how it felt on my face.   At no time did I feel a need to talk to some one.

updated 7/14/09

http://ethicist.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/when-texting-is-wrong/

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