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.

82 comments
Kelly
Kelly

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.

Vernacular Ninja
Vernacular Ninja

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

Kendail
Kendail

Thanks...I have been slapped. I am sure my wife and boys thank you.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I have noting to add - brilliant. Thank you for a moment of clarity in my nutso day! :)

Ebenj
Ebenj

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...

Marian Schembari
Marian Schembari

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.

Ali Davies
Ali Davies

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.

angie
angie

I couldnt agree more.

Killian
Killian

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!

Ms. Snark
Ms. Snark

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.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thank you, Angela! Delighted to be of assistance!

Chris
Chris

there is: it is called "Phone Usage" - the free version does most of what is listed except for the limit setting thing.http://jupiterapps.com/?p=38or over on AppBrain: http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.jupiterapps.phoneusageAnalyze 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

Angela
Angela

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!!

The Redhead
The Redhead

I have nothing to add. He can call his therapist, maybe.

Tessa Harmon
Tessa Harmon

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.)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Ahhh, hello! Always a pleasure! And I'm ALWAYS having fun...great seeing you, Leon - I'll look for that post.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yeah...maybe slap that phone out of his hand. THAT might work!

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

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.RegardsLeon

The Redhead
The Redhead

Hah! Thanks for catching up, Shelly! Great to see you back!

Shelly
Shelly

LOL - I love that Kat!

Shelly
Shelly

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

Sylvia
Sylvia

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.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yes, I have receipts totaling $75 to prove it. Glad you sent your coffee on an adventure, Erroin ;-)

mary
mary

You just bitch slapped my husband. That was so nice of you. I knew I could count on you!

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

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.@Erroin

The Redhead
The Redhead

Awww, Allan - yes, you may have another :) And those cards are a great idea. Maybe I'll open a little Slapping Store.

The Redhead
The Redhead

OK - folks, we have a winner. Tessa, that straight-up SUCKS and I do hope you tied his dick in a knot.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Kat - I'm stealing this, too: "We've mastered the art of multi-tasking. Now we need to find out way back to "undivided attention."

Kat Jaibur
Kat Jaibur

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".

allanRmorton
allanRmorton

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.

Tessa Harmon
Tessa Harmon

I went on a date once with someone who answered his cellphone while we were, uh, in the act. Worst. Idea. Ever.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Hey, Mal! Thanks for stopping by today :)

Mal Daly
Mal Daly

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.

Bill W
Bill W

OK, I'll pick you Erika...but only because you wear saucier shoes!

The Redhead
The Redhead

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!

jim
jim

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.

The Redhead
The Redhead

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!

The Redhead
The Redhead

I don't know if it disturbs me more that she doesn't hit "silent" or that you know where to put the apostrophe in "Timba'land." ;-)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Wow. That's just...wow. Way to cut bait.

David E
David E

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?!

MC
MC

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.

The Redhead
The Redhead

You and your brunette head can rant here any day, lady!

Sarah
Sarah

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. :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

I hope you don't mind, but I'll be stealing "batshit insane" shamelessly for use in a future blog. Thank you.

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