To Text or Not To Text?

By Beth Gulley

Remember the last time you were at a restaurant and the person you were dining with wouldn’t quit texting? Or the last time you were in a house of worship and you looked over and saw someone in the next aisle playing on facebook?

In my role as a college teacher, I spend more and more time telling people to “get that phone out of my sight while you are in this room!” Yet, last week I was in an all staff meeting, and around me my colleagues were playing on Facebook and answering emails instead of paying attention to the speaker.

It turns out, the very people who tell their students that all cell-phone use during class is rude are playing with their phones when they find themselves in their students’ shoes.

So what are the rules that govern cell-phone use and common courtesy? I think we get mixed messages, so this is my attempt to unravel the answer.

Because technology keeps changing more quickly than most of us can keep up with, I would like to look back to a much older principle that I think applies in any situation. If we only “do to others what we would like them to do to us,” then when we use our smart phones we will not be offensive.

For example, when I speak in public, I want the people who are listening to me to show they are engaged in what I am saying. So when I am listening to others speak in public, then I should show my engagement by not playing with my phone. When I go out to a nice restaurant with my spouse, I want him to pay attention to me, and to show that I am more important than his work. By the same token, I should focus on him, and not check my email all during the meal. However, if he asks what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, then I can use my smart-phone app to find out, because it shows that I care about the conversation I am having face to face.

In my classroom, if students use Google to find an answer to someone’s question about the text, then they demonstrate their engagement in the conversation at hand. However, if they use their smart-phone to make their lunch plans while other students do all the work, then they are not treating others well.

The old “cell phones must be turned off and put away” rule may be too harsh when current cell phone apps can be so useful. Instead we should strive to make the people around us feel valued, and do what we would want others to do to us if our roles were reversed.

Short URL: http://osawatominews.com/?p=821

Posted by admin on Jan 26 2011. Filed under Beth Gulley, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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