Physical Proximity and Electronic Separation

PHYSICAL PROXIMITY AND ELECTRONIC SEPARATION….Walter Kirn writes about chatting with a guy at a bar recently and being constantly interrupted by the guy’s Treo:

His face changed ? had some important message arrived? Still speaking to me, but without much focus now, he tapped out a line or two of text with his amazingly prehensile thumbs. He’d left the scene, I sensed; he was somewhere else. At headquarters, perhaps. And I’d been placed on hold.

I didn’t like it. I never like it. And it happens constantly. I’ll be in the middle of what I take to be a sincere human interaction with somebody and they’ll start cutting in and out ? checking the Blackberry, texting on the cell phone, stylus-ing the electronic calendar. No apologies, either. No ‘excuse mes.’ As though a mixture of physical proximity and electronic separation is the accepted new mode of social togetherness.

Hear hear. I’ve never even gotten used to something as mundane as call waiting, let alone our brave new BlackBerry/Treo/cell/IM/text world. But that’s just me. And I suspect Kirn is right: as with talking in theaters, this doesn’t really represent a breakdown in civility, even though it seems that way to people like me. It’s just a social change, and 30 years from now it will seem as natural as self-serve gasoline does today.

But I doubt I’ll ever get used to it myself.