I recently received an email which included this picture of Albert Einstein and the quote. Included with the email were pictures captioned, “a day at the beach,” “cheering on your team,” having dinner with your friends,” “out on an intimate date,” “having a conversation with your BFF,” and “a visit to the museum,” all of which showed young people texting in the company of others.
When I first read the email, I said to myself, “Wow! How prophetic. How did Einstein know this would happen?” Well, of course, any time I get an email like, I have to “snope” it out and, of course, I found out that no matter how wise the words are, Albert Einstein never said them. But if he had lived in the 21st Century, I’m sure he would have.
Now, I’m certainly not a luddite. I love the internet. Anything I need to know I can find within a few minutes. For example, I read an interview with Eric Clapton and he was asked, “if you could’ve written any song, what would it have been?” He answered, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” written by Jerome Kerns and Oscar Hammerstein II. Well, I found the song in about ten seconds; I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken me to find the song without the internet.
But not all technology is good all of the time. The obsession with texting is what I’m talking about. According to a communications-analytics company, Quantified Impressions, people should be making eye contact 60% to 70% of the time to create a sense of emotional connection. This is no longer happening because of mobile devices. I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat with friends who hold their phones in their hand while they’re talking with me, waiting patiently or impatiently for something to pop up on their device. Now, I may not be the most stimulating conversationalist, but neither are they, and I find this type of behavior most rude and annoying. According to QI, “it’s almost become culturally acceptable to answer the phone at dinner. A common feint, texting while maintaining eye contact, not only is difficult but also comes off as phony.”
I recently heard a great solution for this problem. A family was at a restaurant for lunch. One of the women, a tough schoolteacher-type, gathered everyone’s phones and put them in the middle of the table. She said, “the first one to reach for their phone, pays the check.” I know I’d get a lot of free meals.
Psychologists have even pointed to “FOMO” or “fear of missing out” on social opportunities, according to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior. How ridiculous is that? What about the social opportunity someone is supposed to be having with the person next to them. I’ve seen people in the theatre, at the beach, in restaurants, museums, and even at a recent Perseus Meteor Shower, all missing out on what’s actually happening around them, because they’re too busy texting.
The CEO of Decker Communications, a training and consulting firm, says that holding eye contact words best for 7 to 10 seconds in a one-on-one conversation and for 3 to 5 seconds in a group setting. I remember watching a teenager sitting with her parents on the ferry. Of course, her smartphone was in her hand. Her parents would speak to her and I counted the number of seconds she actually kept eye contact with them. She didn’t last 7 seconds before she was compelled to look down at her phone. I continued to watch this interaction and found it extremely sad.
There’s actually a new app that sends breakup texts to your girlfriend or boyfriend. You answer a series of questions about the relationship and it generates a “fitting” breakup text. Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s not. I’m sure someone will pay $.99 to have a smartphone do something that deserves personal attention.
I’m sure if Albert Einstein were still alive, he’d say, I don’t get it.