Face vs. Phone

I am at lunch with a good friend, my phone rings, I instinctively pick it up to see who is calling, oh it’s my wife. I ask for permission to pick it up, knowing he wouldn’t say no. A professor is sitting in his office talking with a student, the student’s phone rings, he picks it up, it’s his wife. Another professor is talking with a student in his office, his phone rings, he doesn’t pick up, the student is confused. I call a good friend who is out to dinner with his family, he picks up.

These are all true stories, and they all have something in common. In each of these stories, there is a battle going on, a hidden, unspoken battle. It is the battle between the face and the phone.

But what about this one: I am in the theater watching a movie, people’s phones ring, silently, no one picks up. Wait, yup, you heard me right, no one picked up their phones. Why? Perhaps 2 reasons:

1. Everyone knows that you do not answer your phone in a theater – that is just rude.
2. Perhaps when it is phone vs. face, phone wins, but when it is phone vs. movie, movie wins.

If you are not yet bothered about this, allow me to help you think about it a little more clearly. If when you are with someone having a face to face conversation, and your phone rings, and it isn’t an emergency and you pick up anyways, what are you really saying? You are really saying that who ever is on the other line is more important to you than the person you are talking face to face with. However, in many cases they are not truly more important to you, (although that is really what it is saying to the person you are talking with in the flesh) so why do you pick up anyways? I wonder if it isn’t because we value technological communication over tangible communication, communication made in the flesh, face to face, with other people.

Let’s see how you do in your value of face to face vs. face to technology:

1. When something big happens in your life, do you:

a. Post it on facebook / twitter?
b. Call a friend / family member?
c. Write a letter?
d. Wait to tell people when you can do it in the flesh?

2. When inviting people to events do you:

a. Post it on facebook / twitter?
b. Email them?
c. Send them a card?
d. Wait to invite them face to face?

3. When something bad happens to a friend / family member do you:

a. Post something on facebook / twitter?
b. Email / call them?
c. Write them a letter?
d. Wait to see them face to face?

4. When you want to catch up with someone do you:

a. Post something on facebook / twitter?
b. Email / call them?
c. Write them a letter?
d. Invite them to a face to face meeting?

I think you get my point. If you answered mostly “a” you seemingly prefer technology over face to face contact. If you answered mostly “d” you seemingly prefer face to face contact. Of course this isn’t an official study, and I purposely left out many details like texting and IM. The idea is to get a feel for how rampant this is in our society.

How about another question. When at a church or event with a live speaker do you prefer, if you are close enough to actually see the speaker, to look at him or the video screen of him?

It seems we prefer technology in our eyes over other people’s breath on our face. Why do we prefer to talk with someone over a long distance than the people right with us? How many of us are on the phone gaming or texting when with another person or group of people? Our minds seem disconnected from reality in front of us, and are instead, wired into a cyber reality. Can it be said: technology (tools) makes the people, more than people make the technology (tools)? In the final analysis who is crafting who?

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