NZ Woman's Weekly

Colin Hogg on modern communication

Would I sound like just another crazy person trying to wind back the clock if I suggested we’d be doing ourselves and the whole wide wonderful world a great big favour if we were to all throw our cellphones in the sea? Of course I would, but I don’t care.

The thing that’s brought this powerful feeling on is the realisation that the only time I’ve recently felt I had the full attention of my teenage daughter was when we were away together in Australia. The texting charges over there terrified her so much she turned her phone off which resulted in a remarkable change in our relationship.

Suddenly I had all of her charming company, which was a wonderful thing to enjoy – if only for a few fleeting phoneless days. Then we were back home and, beep, she was gone again. Well, not entirely gone. She still talks to me, but she doesn’t say much. That phone is always close at hand.

It’s not only teenagers being stolen from their loved ones by technology – several other members of the family are only ever half with me, always with one eye and several flashing fingers to the mobile.

Not that I lead a day-today life free from electronic interruption myself. I’ve got at least one of every communications device known to humankind, but I tend to turn them off or ignore their plaintive cries if I’ve got company. But I’m usually the odd one out when it comes to that sort of behaviour.

Everyone else arrives at a café for coffee and a catch-up, takes a seat and puts the phone on the table as if to say, “Hope you don’t mind but I brought the office along too.”

Actually, I do mind. I also mind having to mind my step on city footpaths filled with people thinking they can walk, talk and text at the same time. Then there are the parents you see on streets and sidelines and in supermarkets, too busy jabbing away at their devices to pay attention to their kids.

And, worst of all, there’s the little ones too busy playing Angry Birds or Zombies versus Vegetables on Mum or Dad’s phone to talk to anyone or notice the view going by out the car window.

Mind you, some worried people probably said the same thing about books when they first started falling into just about everyone’s hands a couple of centuries ago. These days, thanks to all the new high-tech toys, it’s the books we’re trying to save from extinction. But maybe we should also be trying to save our conversations and even the day-to-day details of our relationships from extinction.

Sometimes it seems I’m the only person around who’s not talking or texting to someone I can’t see. Whatever happened to the idea of privacy? We’ve all become used to hearing one half of intimate conversations while strangers shout it out to their loved ones and business contacts down phones at bus stops and in waiting rooms.

Silence is becoming an endangered species. It makes people so nervous now that they reach for their phones when things take a quiet turn. And that can’t be good.

Issue 1541

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