mercredi 24 septembre 2014

"We were Three of Us in the Relationship": not another Diana's confession, just me, my friend and our smartphones


As was flying to Seattle, I was thinking about the mobile devices and how they might kill relationships between human beings. I don't know why I'm writing this in English but things happen somehow, you don't know why. Sometimes I'm scared by my own opinions or reflexions (since I turned 30, I have to be careful not to become one those people perpetually regretting the good old days) but I find it really unfriendly and disagreeable when you're waiting for someone's answer for ages because he (or she because this is not a gender question) is more focused on sharing lol cats videos than paying attention to what you're saying. This rudeness might appear anytime anywhere. Either while sharing a lunch with your family and your cousin is playing Candy Crush or trying to explain to your best friend what has ruined your perfect day while he (or she once again) is chatting with a friend not even in the room, or when you'd like to chat with friends you haven't seen for a long time (like weeks or months) and it seems that they haven't seen wifi for life, after only one day without any data access! 
I know I'm not perfect and this might sound really arrogant, all the more so that I am the one with at least two devices and sharing a lot on Facebook. But believe it or not, it has been a while since I haven't hang on the phone when other people are with me (I know someone who could even say that I'm never available). I try my best not to look at my notifications when in a business meeting or working with my team. And even if some could argue of the contrary, I try not to keep focused on my smartphone when home. I said I try.

I read recently that the smartphone is the new cigarette. It's a way to pretend staying cool and having a social life even when you're alone in a room full of people you don't want tot talk to. Since Blackberry brought emails in our hands, it's also a way to look very busy (and I agree, sometimes it's not only pretending!) especially in a business environment, when your boss is not far. I recently spent one week attending conferences with my boss and I have to say that when having lunch by myself in meeting rooms, where I could have talked to my neighbor (and his tablet), I finally decided to read every single details of Brangelina's wedding with a very concentrated face, rather than introducing my self to him. Maybe if he had been as good looking as Brad Pitt I could have made an effort... I totally agree: sometimes, it's a lot easier to pretend being busy with very important decisions to make than showing people what could be interpreted as loneliness or desperate need for social attention. What caught my eyes when I arrived  in my former business environment was the way people acted in business meetings. Everybody was there but eventually, nobody was here. I could have a bench of 15 people in front of me for one hour but very likely only two of them were able to interact with me. The other 13 were focused on their laptop or their smartphone. At the beginning I felt almost hurt by what I saw as a lack of consideration, but then, I became one of them. Since I left, I promised myself that if one day I run a company (who knows?), I will follow Didier Deschamps' strategy and only allow 15-minute stand up meetings. "Droit au but" as he could have said some years ago. Some could also argue that this might have a direct link with my personality, which I don't totally deny... 

When living in Paris and commuting every morning, I was a total nerd in the subway. I had absolutely no physical or social contact with any other passenger except maybe when touching their knees while attempting to seat. I was either chatting with my "Indian mate" on what's ap when 3G network was available (mostly between Quai de la gare and Saint Jacques stations) or playing one of these brainless smartphone games, growing magic cauliflowers and other broccolis. And this was 2011. In 2013, fortunately things had changed: I had moved to another place and was commuting by bus. Because my boss and I shared interests in fashion and stupid TV shows while coffee clutching, she provided me every Monday a pair of those magazines you usually read at the dentist's. And because I took the bus from the start of its journey I didn't even need to touch other people's legs to seat! Of course, this example is perfect to show that smartphone is not the only cause for lack of communication between two persons in a bus, but this impression is reinforced as people think that with their smartphone they are sharing and communicating. And of course once again, we are. When I FaceTime my Mom while she's looking for mushrooms, we both (!) find technology's fantastic!

But there is a huge difference between creating a virtual conversation when you are not in an actual physical one than creating a virtual chat when you're already involved (or at least asked to be) in a real conversation.

Of course as I said, I'm not perfect and have been, and will probably still be, sometimes rude by answering my text messages instead of providing my friends and family the attention they were expecting from me. Of course you all have a thousand of pictures of me and my phone, or and my phoneS. And yes, when I'm fed up with someone or when I get bored, I can be rude too and stare at my screen in order to send candy crush requests or read the news. But once again, since I'm here, I try to talk more to strangers (don't tell my Mom).

In NYC there is no 4G coverage (no coverage at all actually) in the subway. So you will probably see more people with a Kindle or an iPod than in Paris. But then. People talk to each other. Sometimes this is bothering me and I don't want to have an other of these pointless discussion ending by "this was a really nice talk, have a safe trip back home". But sometimes this is also useful. In NYC when you run into a subway without being sure if it's an express or a local train, you can ask anybody, you'll get at least 2 answers. In Paris, the subway would have arrived to the next station before you got any (except maybe if you are blind. With a white dog. Never trust strangers I told you, Girl)! Sometimes I can't understand why such a gigantic and modern city as New York has no coverage in its subway (especially when I need google maps' help, you know this happens a lot) and sometimes I take time to look at people. Let's also be clear about another point: they don't look much happier in NYC subway than in Paris, no, they don't! But for me, as a personal interest, this is great. And also probably because I no longer commute every morning to work :D

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