The Bitch Slap: It’s Me or the Phone

bitch slap put down the phoneThere was a date last year where the gentleman in question asked me if I’d like to come up to his place. Assuming he meant “do you want to have sex, stay the night, get a parking ticket and leave at an absurd hour of the morning,” I responded:

Yes. If you’ll put the phone away.

Then there was the ex-boyfriend who lived and died latched-on the the same Apple-branded teat. The vibrations never seemed to end. The texting with The Dudes was frequent. Conversations with the ex-wife were seemingly incessant. So I finally said something:

It’s me or the phone. Your choice.

Folks, it’s a piece of technology and I don’t care if you’re a Crackberry/iPhone/Droid/Palm devotee. It makes no difference. It disgusts me that you can’t put the phone down long enough to have a conversation with a real, live person standing in front of you (especially if you’re hoping the conversation culminates in a “happy ending with release”).

So yeah – you’re getting Bitch Slapped. Every time you look at that phone that plugs you into The Matrix, you’re unplugging from ME. You’re telling the person (or people) sitting in front of you that you place more value in virtual relationships than real ones. And let me tell you – while there might be some oddballs out there reading my blog who live in their parents’ basement and have an uber-pimped-out whatever on World of Warcraft, every damn one of you is seriously lacking an excuse.

If you’ve arranged your life so that you simply cannot function without checking your email every five minutes, my friend – you’re a walking example of a serious fail. You should turn in your opposable thumbs and go back to dragging your knuckles because your ability to operate as a being with logical capacity is utterly absent.

Social engagement these days revolves around our handheld devices. We check in, we text, we tweet, we share. But can’t you do that and put the goddamned phone AWAY?

Let me get this straight:

You go somewhere to meet friends.

You arrive. You “check in.”

Aaaaaaand there are your friends.

***where’s the part about your phone being a requirement for a meaningful experience?

Ladies and gents, it’s this simple: if you’re on a date, you turn the fucking phone off. If there is a life or death matter, your date will be understanding – but every date should NOT have a life-or-death matter lurking at the perimeter (and if it does, it’s likely a smart decision to lose the date and go find a new one).

If you’re in a meeting, you turn the fucking phone off. Your attention deserves to be present in that room with people who have arranged their time to hear what you have to say.

And if you’re in the car, quit fucking text messaging! It blows my mind that there are no-texting laws yet very few hands-free laws. You need to type “LOL” does not preempt my desire and right to drive the streets among other drivers with two eyes on the goddamned road.

Now, as the sting on your cheek subsides, I want you to think back to the day that you saw your first fax machine. The day you used your first computer. The day that Michael Douglas looked like a serious P-I-M-P in Wall Street when he spoke on that big-as-a-brick “mobile phone.”

We didn’t always have these fantastical devices. And somehow, life went on without them. Believe me – you are capable of giving other human beings the pleasure of your company for a finite period of time without having to “check in” with technology.

That’s it. Consider yourself slapped. And if you’ve got a technology-related horror story, I’d love to hear it.

84 replies
  1. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    THANK YOU for writing this, Erika! I’ve been saying this for years. My job demands (yes, demands) that I stay in touch, but whenever possible, the phone goes away. I’m ecstatic when I’m camping because technology can’t follow me.

    I can’t believe how many people I see texting or talking who can’t (and shouldn’t) drive at the same time, so I am taking my life into my hands by being on the same road with them. I find that more than a little irritating. One woman was actually putting on makeup AND talking on the phone AND driving! Well, she was hardly driving…

    I’m sharing this post. Love your stuff.

  2. The Other Matt
    The Other Matt says:

    In a comment below, another Matt stated my feelings about paying attention to the one you’re with. This courtesy, as the Redhead knows, also applies to customer/clients. When I worked with my customers, my phone was always off or on ‘courtesy mode.’ (I like that euphemism. I think I saw that in a Doctor’s office.) As Matt noted, they might ask, “do you need to get that?” I made a visible show of switching the phone off and I would say something like, “nope. Nothing is more important that what we’re doing right now.” I would always get a smile from them. After all, they were “my customers.”

    I have related question: What is it about teenagers on dates and phones? I always want to whisper (yell?) in the guy’s ear, “turn the freakin phone off and dig that pretty chick you are with.” They both are absorbed by their phones and it doesn’t seem to matter to them. Ah, the youth of the world, will they ever learn?

  3. John Lutter
    John Lutter says:

    Have you noticed (er… maybe not, depending on how much TV news you watch) that there has been a rash of telephoning ON TV?

    Every once in awhile, I'll be watching some commentary show on TV, and in the middle of an interview, a telephone will go off. You are a professional TV personality, and you haven't figured out how to turn off you fricken phone when doing your job?

    You should immediately be banned from any other TV appearance FOREVER. There is just no excuse…

  4. anthonymendez
    anthonymendez says:

    I traveled to the Dominican Republic on vacation without so much as advising my provider or getting an international plan. I returned home to a $1100 bill! I let the phone get disconnected because I was not going to pay half of my monthly mortgage to anyone. Until, finally a day or two ago I entered into an agreement with my provider ($860… woot?) and when the phone rang for the first time in weeks, I was actually kind of annoyed by it. I hadn't realized the peace that not having a phone provided me. Lesson learned. Great post!

  5. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    Well I wouldn't call this a horror story, but it bugs me nonetheless.

    There are those that are conducting business, negotiating contracts, giving the babysitter instructions for dinner…while we are standing in front of our grocery checkers, our retail cashiers, etc. It's rude.

    Give these service providers some courtesy please. Hang up and give these hard working folk your attention for a few minutes so they can help you get the fuck out of my way, cuz I'm next!

  6. Carl Thress
    Carl Thress says:

    Related bitch slap… you don't need to use your outside voice when talking on your phone in public… especially when what you're talking about should be private between you and the person on the other end of the phone. I don't need to hear you piss and moan to someone about how bad your day has been, what the world owes you, or whatever else is on your mind. Especially when I'm trying to carry on my own conversation with a real, live person three booths down from you, or while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store. It's amazing some of the things you hear people talking about — in public — on their phones. Funny sometimes, yes, but kinda awkward, too. I often wonder if the person on the other end of the line realizes their conversation is being broadcast to anyone within earshot and what they would think if they found out it was.

  7. Matt
    Matt says:

    Another brilliant blog! Here's a little cell-phone dating advice from back in my single days: when the phone rings on a date as it always does, pick it up, turn it off, and then apologize to your date. They will kindly respond 'is that important? do you need to get that?' To which you say 'not at all, I'm here with you and *that's* important'. My friends, saying that is the cyber-equivalent of laying your jacket over a puddle so that you date doesn't get her shoes wet.
    Not only will it guarantee 'happy ending with release', but she'll make you breakfast and offer to pay for the parking ticket. 🙂

  8. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Dear Matt: your wife is a VERY lucky girl. (Ladies and gents alike, please heed Matt's advice.) I'm just going to send a link to this comment to all of my prospective suitors in the future.

  9. Jeffrey Platts
    Jeffrey Platts says:

    GREAT POST. As much as I am in total agreement, I have an iPhone and am guilty of choosing to check out of the moment, too.

    I really do like the idea of turning it off completely. As recently as 1986, people hung out with other people (and actually had fun) without any type of electronic device having to be on. I'm going to experiment with keeping my phone off most of the time and only turning it on when I need to use it to make a call. People can leave a voicemail or email and I will respond when I choose to.

    One bonafied way to sober your ass up:

    1. Charge your phone fully.

    2. Use your phone as normal during the day.

    3. At the end of the day, go to Settings and see your “Usage” under “Time since last full charge”. The 4 hours and 42 minutes you see is the total amount of time today that you've had the phone screen activated. And by screen activated, I mean the time you've spent on Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages, sports scores, games. (I make exceptions for phone calls, since that's direct connection with another human.)

    Thanks for the nudge, Erica.

  10. Carl Thress
    Carl Thress says:

    One quick addendum. We had the radio on in the car last night and “Telephone” came on. My wife said, “Have you ever listened to the words of this song? It's pretty ridiculous. She's complaining that her phone keeps ringing while she's trying to dance at a club. If she doesn't want people calling, why doesn't she just turn her phone off?” So, Lady Gaga, consider yourself bitch slapped by my wife. 🙂

  11. KK
    KK says:

    I have one of those jobs that require me to be on call 24/7, and to always have a smartphone with me. My days are filled with texts, emails, and calls from bosses and coworkers, but it's the cost of telecommuting. I try to ignore a lot of those that are less urgent, but I've gotten yelled at for an hour delay while I was in a movie. I've lost a lot of friends who didn't want to hang out with someone who always has one eye on the phone, and I understand that they feel there's a lack of connection, but without the job I couldn't go out at all. I do have an amazing man who doesn't mind (much) the midnight calls and 5am texts. =)

  12. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Here's what I'll say: it sounds like you've already slapped yourself and are looking for ways to integrate your career demands into your “me” time. So kudos to you AND your amazing man!

  13. Major Bedhead
    Major Bedhead says:

    Ha. I posted about this a week or two ago. It drives me batshit insane when people have one eye on their phone screen all the time. It's saying “Hey, you're kind of important, but something better might come along, so I have to keep all my options open.” Which, y'know, is really middle school. And it makes me feel like crap.

    I do leave my phone on when I'm out but my eldest (who is 16) has strict instructions to only call me if one of the little kids is bleeding. Out of both ears.

  14. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Ah, the good old days, when cell phones didn't exist… I remember people calling on my landline *a whole week* before a conference, leaving a message on my answering machine so I could call them back the next day. Fast forward to cell phone era: my phone rings at 4pm: “are you available tomorrow?” Somehow, being able to reach and be reached anytime, anywhere has given some people (a lot of people!) the idea that other people are available anytime, anywhere, one of the perverse effects being this last-minute culture and people frantically answering their phones and checking their messages all the time so they don't lose any job ops.

    Get a grip, people! These things are supposed to make our lives easier, not turn us into slaves!

    OK, enough brunette ranting for one day. 🙂

  15. MC
    MC says:

    I went on a ski first date with a girl last year. She spent the entire time on the drive up 70, the ride up the chairlift, at the table during lunch, and the drive back home texting. She even texted at the top of the mountain before we made turns! I made a comment at one point and it didn't even phase her. Even though she was younger than me I just couldn't comprehend how basic social graces had eluded her. Needless to say I never went on another date with her again, and it's an automatic deal breaker if the phone can't put down for a bit.

  16. David E
    David E says:

    Just couldn't resist, how about someone who has set their ringer or SMS alert with a whole song. Your have a conversation and it goes off, either a mushy love song or something from Timba'land. She ignores it and just goes on talking. I wonder what the hell for? Does it mean I am important or she thinks I'm deaf?!

  17. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    God knows, someone needs to Bitch Slap the tweens and teens of today. And maybe we can slap that “OMG – whatEVER!” look off their faces in the process as well. Lordy – no wonder my mother wanted to kill me half the time. I shudder to think what she'd have done had I been “plugged in” back then!

  18. jim
    jim says:

    Even though I work in software development around all sorts of the latest technology, I'm kind of a Luddite about phones. I use a flip phone I got 5 years ago. It's not that I wouldn't mind having a smartphone, but that I rather like the smaller monthly bills I have now and the fact that I'm not under contract.

    I tell people that the fastest way to piss me off is to text me. It's not just because texting on my numeric keypad sucks donkey balls. It's because I'd much rather hear their voice.

    Increasingly, I leave my phone at home when I'm out with friends or on dates. I went thirtymumble years sans phone-on-my-hip and did just fine. And then there's no way to reach me and my companions are sure to have my undivided attention.

  19. The Redhead
    The Redhead says:

    Love it. And I concur: last week, I was sans smartphone for 3 days. While initially weird, I did some crazy things: got work done, payed attention to the road and listened to the radio. Amazing what can happen when you un-fucking-plug!

  20. Mal Daly
    Mal Daly says:

    The most important button on your phone/iPad/laptop is the one that turns it off. Get familiar with the damn thing. Love the dating advice below.

  21. allanRmorton
    allanRmorton says:

    I can't conceive of unplugging from you. No one else slaps me the way you do. 🙂 Awesome article. Maybe you can condense your article into a business card size so that we can hand it to people in public that are being so rude? At the bottom of the card it should definitely say, “Consider yourself slapped”. Love, The Redhead.

  22. Kat Jaibur
    Kat Jaibur says:

    Well, it needed to be said. Again. And you said it so well. My friend calls it “Phone Face-off”… and the person who should get priority usually loses. Sometimes it can't be helped. I don't want to find out 5 hours later there was an emergency with my mom. But most things can wait at least until a trip to the restroom where we can sneak a peek at messages if we must.
    We've mastered the art of multi-tasking. Now we need to find out way back to “undivided attention”.

  23. Erroin Martin
    Erroin Martin says:

    After reading all the comments – some should be on FML – I have to ask only this:

    They seriously hand out parking tickets late at night? Must be tough staying over in Denver.

    My favorite inappropriate cellphone moment was at a funeral I was attending. When the reverend asked for a moment of silence (after telling all of us to respect a house of worship and silence our phones), his went off and the song was… inappropriate.

    Thanks for making the coffee run out of my nose with another great blog post.


  24. Sylvia
    Sylvia says:

    Ah, good grief! I hang out with someone like that. Trying to be tolerant, but it does annoy me, especially as I have no idea what all those messages are about!

    It does make a person feel second-best.

  25. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    I will consider myself slapped and my husband thanks you…

    I slapped myself a while ago… and in the last month.. I have been unplugging more and more… I knew I was getting out of hand (or it could be those sighs and eye-rolls from hubby that did the trick) Either way – I am getting better..

    and so now tonight, I am catching up on my reader… I have read your last 6 blog posts in a row (and watched your first vlog…) so in case you were wondering.. not stalking… catching up… LOL

  26. Leon Noone
    Leon Noone says:

    G'Day Erika,
    And so say all of us! Keep on about those self-important nutters who can't seem to survive without texting, twittering, emailing or blubbering into their cellphones.

    I published a post on my blog about this earlier this year. I'll send a copy separately. It's bad enough at a personal level. In the workplace it's a disaster in the workplace. Overuse of these so called modern communications techniques damages effective communication at work.

    Bitch slap on, Erika. And, of course, make sure you have fun.



  27. Tessa Harmon
    Tessa Harmon says:

    I did, and afterwards, he said I “gave him PTSD” because of the way I ended things.

    An interesting character, indeed. (And if he really actually got PTSD? He still deserved it. Fucker.)

  28. Angela
    Angela says:

    AMEN!!!! There is quite possibly NOTHING that annoys me more. It amazes me that mankind has survived as long as this – what with the lack of technology in previous generations. Fantastic post that I intend to share, share, and share!!

  29. Chris
    Chris says:

    there is: it is called “Phone Usage” – the free version does most of what is listed except for the limit setting thing.
    or over on AppBrain:

    Analyze your phone call, text and data usage.
    See charts of usage for day, week, month, last month and 2 months ago.
    Get set limits on daily, weekly and monthly usage.
    Get alerts when you break your usage limits.
    Get usage widgets for calls, texts and data.
    Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese

  30. Ms. Snark
    Ms. Snark says:

    This is why I'm holding onto my dumbphone, don't want to become one of “these” people. I'll consider this a preemptive Bitch Slap as I'm sure to succumb to the temptations soon enough, give Steve Jobs more of my money that he doesn't need. Note to self: Off Button.

    My tech related horror story: At a wedding, one of my relatives had her bluetooth headset in her ear, the whole damn time. Every dance, every family photo… her hair “hiding” it but still. Couldn't decide if it was trashy, assy or both; I did resist the urge to send her in to @BTDB – barely.

    • vaguelycool
      vaguelycool says:

      Glad you don’t care about people being late to the party………

      I sat through a 5 day training seminar with a woman who had her bluetooth in her ear (turned off) every minute of every day of the whole 5 days. I can’t remember what I was trained on as I spent the whole time wondering WHAT THE FUCK WAS WRONG WITH THIS WOMAN THAT SHE WOULD WEAR A GD BLUETOOTH, TURNED OFF, IN HER EAR FOR 40 HOURS.

      • Ms. Snark
        Ms. Snark says:

        Late? “The party don’t start til I walk in.” Yes I feel appropriately ashamed to quote kitschy pop song. 😉 Anyway.. it’s the same crap be it always texting or Tweeting or Facebook stalking or bluetooth douchebagging. I think the cellphone or the BT earbud becomes another appendage, something you feel naked without like a watch or debit card.

          • vaguelycool
            vaguelycool says:

            I have started really paying attention to serial texters as a result of this slap and, I have to tell you…..I have announced to my husband and two tiny children, that it will stop. Nothing is crucial enough to have any of us walking around, head down, glued to the phone. I witnessed two parents at the pediatrician the other day, fully engrossed in their bberries, the mother signed in on the sheet without looking up. FFS people – are you performing brain surgery on that thing – you look like twits. I also watched a father at the zoo on Sunday, tapping away while his wee boy said “look Daddy, the lion is on top of the other lion” and Dad didn’t even look up – not even for possible feline fornication!!!! Not for me no mo’!!!!

  31. Killian
    Killian says:

    Erika, you are my new hero. I only just stumbled on your blog thanks to a friend, Sweden who is a huge fan, but I love it already!

    People’s phones going off in meetings pisses me off to no end. Our department head has a strict “no phones” rule in meetings unless it’s her own. (But then, this is the same woman who sat in a meeting with state officials and flossed her teeth! No, I’m not kidding – wish I was.)

    And don’t get me started on loud people with their Ear Dildos. I understand that they’re indispensable when driving, but once you’re out of the car, unless you’re carrying an armful of groceries and a screaming toddler, it makes you look like a pretentious dickhead.

    Thank you for bitchslapping this group of idiots; too bad we couldn’t just auto-email your column to their emails!

  32. Ali Davies
    Ali Davies says:

    With the risk of sounding really old fashioned, it seems that plain good manners goes out the window when it comes to technology these days.
    I just think it is down right rude if someone is using their phone for general, no real urgent purpose when they are supposed to be interacting face to face.
    Amen to everything you said.

  33. Marian Schembari
    Marian Schembari says:

    God, I can’t even tell you how much I LOVE this particular bitch slap. I don’t have an iPhone for this exact reason and my cell? Well, all it does is call and no one actually calls me anymore so hopefully I’m safe.

    The thing that pisses me off the most is when I’m with a friend doing something… you know, in real life, and their eyes keep glancing at the phone. This is something I KNOW people can relate to. What do you do with that person? I always stop talking and they always say, “don’t worry, I’m still listening.” ARE YOU? Are you REALLY present? Because I feel like you’re putting me second to the damn phone.

    This one time I was walking out of an office and ran smack into a guy I went to high school with. We probably hadn’t seen each other in 4 or 5 years but we had been good friends and it was awesome to see him. But the whole fucking time we were catching up his eyes were locked on his phone, fingers typing away. It was incredibly insulting. Who does that? I should have said something but I didn’t want to look like a bitch. But reading this and looking back on it? He’s the one that looks like a total douche.

  34. Ebenj
    Ebenj says:

    What I really don’t get is the fact that cell phones and similar devices were made in order for people to communicate with other people…so when you are face to face with a REAL person and are achieving the main goal of what that technology sets out to do in the first place, why the hell do you prefer to be back on the damn phone? Aren’t you just trying to talk and communicate on the phone? What is the point if you don’t even value the real communication that the technology is attempting to simulate? Makes no freaking sense…

  35. Vernacular Ninja
    Vernacular Ninja says:

    A little late to the party … but anywho.

    Inability to disconnect … sounds so damn familiar.

    You and I would have some interesting convos regarding the Web, marketing, the art of conversation, etc., because our thought processes share some definite parallels.

    Kudos for having the balls to state the facts, despite the fact that we live in a world and work in an industry where “shutting down” is almost faux pas.

    I just know that my sanity and family both appreciate the ability to create balance. Life is way too fucking short to spend all your time between app and browser. Live a little peeps.

    Thanks as always Erika, great stuff

  36. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    I was recently thinking about how much this behavior seriously irks me. Frankly, I find it incredibly rude if I’m engaged in conversation and someone answers their phone, never mind constant glancing at an electronic device.

    When did everyone become “oh so important” that they need to be available 24 flippin’ 7? Why don’t people understand that *not* giving someone their undivided attention is just plain rude? Would it not be considered incredibly impolite if I suddenly pulled out a book in the middle of a conversation?

    I do understand that circumstances arise where one’s availability is vital. Perhaps as a society we are in need of a “refresher course” in order to better identify these conditions. Until then, I’ll be sure to have a book handy if only to have something to keep me occupied while I patiently await my turn.


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