Whether you are dating someone, interviewing someone, or just meeting someone for the first time, there is a special quality about face-to-face interactions. You can catch the subtle tone in their voice, see their expression as it changes from sad to outraged, and you can look them in the eye to see if you trust them. So it’s unfortunate that real-life interactions are on the outs as cell phone conversations, texting, instant messaging and Facebook emails start to take up more of our time.
That means much less chance of conversation with the people who populate their real lives. Last weekend I went back for a reunion of old friends at my alma mater, the University of Missouri-Columbia, located in the heartland of America. While wandering around campus, I noticed that just about every student had a cell phone out to read text messages or check voicemails as they walked around — whether they had friends nearby or not. What was once something you did in private or during downtime has now become an obsession.
Somewhere else there is someone who I care about more than you. I want to know what they have to say more than what you have to say to me now. We devalue our current situation, the friends and family around us, our surroundings and setting, for something going on somewhere else. Last year when I visited London, I noticed an acute case of what I call gadget haze, with so many hipster urbanites connected at all times to smart phones or MP3 players. Slowly, she removed herself from her bubble, took off her headset, asked me to repeat what I said.