Normally I’m not a big fan of mobile phones. This is primarily because most of my interaction with people using them has been negative. For example, the person who struck my truck and tore the front right off it was using a mobile phone. I was not very happy about that.
As another example, as a professor I have to compete with mobile phones. Although I do try to be interesting, many people find the text messages of their buddies much more amusing than, say, St. Anselm’s ontological proof for the existence of God.
Students generally try to hide the fact that they are texting, usually by concealing the phone under the desk. What students generally don’t realize is that I can see what they are doing. Of course, the first time it happened, I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was teaching class and I noticed that a fellow in the back had his hands under his desk and a big smile on his face. I could see that he was moving his hands very rapidly but couldn’t quite see exactly what he was doing with them. Naturally, my first thought was “holy sh^t, that dude is teasing the weasel in my class.”
I tried to remember if the university had a policy on that sort of thing, but figured it would be covered by the rules that require people to cover up the naughty bits. Just as I was deciding whether I needed to bring the campus police in, the guy dropped the phone and I realized that he had just been texting (and suffered a premature disconnection).
But, to get to my intended point: while I’m generally not a big fan of mobile phones, they do serve a very useful social purpose: they tell you where you stand in another person’s hierarchy of importance. In other words, you can tell a great deal about how much a person values you by the way they treat you with the phone.
If you are with someone and the phone takes priority over you, then the person they are talking to is more valuable (to her) than you are. Of course, there are obvious exceptions-like work calls that must be taken and emergencies. Obviously, context also matters a great deal. If you are just hanging out and doing nothing, then the fact that someone pays attention to his phone doesn’t say that much. But, if you are on a date and the phone takes priority, then you already have a good idea where you stand.
A few years ago I was on a first date with someone and she showed up talking on the phone. She walked past me, and held up her index finger to presumably indicate that she would be with me in a minute. Or maybe she just couldn’t remember that she should use her middle finger to further express her contempt.
During the “date” she had two mobile phones going: one for work and a personal phone. In between calls, she told me she was single because her ex-boyfriend couldn’t stand the fact that she spent all her time on the phone. I was, of course, shocked and amazed by this. A few phone calls later, she said she wanted to go to a movie and started to look up show times on her phone. After I went to the restroom, she told me that a friend had called and she had to go to an event. She asked me if I minded, and I assured her I did not-I was glad that she had given me a graceful exit from one of the worst “dates” of my life. As I drove away, I could see she was talking on the phone while driving. Obviously, there was no second date.
While it was an annoying date, it was great knowing what she was like right away. Her behavior with the phone showed me just how much I was worth to her: almost nothing. I did not feel bad, since her story about her ex-boyfriend showed that anyone who was not talking to her on her phone was unworthy of her consideration. I almost, but did not, ask her if she only had phone sex. I was afraid the answer would be “yes.” I didn’t really want to know how far her obvious love of phones extended. After all, they can be set to vibrate and with two phones she could call herself….I can see where this might lead, so I shall return back to my main point: a person’s phone behavior in person is a great measure of how much she values you. Hence, phones are quite useful in that they can expose some of the very undesirable aspects of a person.
When I used to go on dates, phone behavior was part of my assessment process. I didn’t have a point system (that would be a sign of some sort of mental illness) but I would obviously be aware of how often the phone was in use. My view is that if the phone got more attention than I did, the relationship potential was probably somewhere around zero.
Of course, I have become aware that many people have a different view of respect and politeness than i do. In the case of phones, some people seem to take the view that when the phone rings (or vibrates), the normal rules of polite behavior are suspended only to resume when the conversation (or texting) ends. In other words, phone behavior doesn’t count. I don’t agree with this, but I have endeavored to be more understanding of it. After all, I grew up in a time without mobile phones and new technology often means new rules of behavior. However, rudeness does still seem to be rudeness, even when a person is holding a phone.
While I’m not much a of phone person (I come from old Maine stock: we use few words in conversation and like being well armed), I do talk to people who use mobile phones.
People can express how much they value you by when they call you. For example, if they just call you when they are in need, that shows that they value your help. Whether they value the rest of you or not is another matter. Also, if they call you just when they are bored (to ease the dull commute to work for example), then you are not high on their value hierarchy. If they only call you when it is a wrong number…well, you do the math.
People can also show how much they value you by what sort of calls they accept when talking to you on the phone. After all, if you are really important, then you would take priority. As noted above, context is also important. A call from the boss or an emergency call do take priority even over someone who is quite important.
However, if you are left listening to dead air while she talks with someone else, then that person is more important to her than you. If she interrupts her conversations with others to talk to you, then you are probably more important to her than that person. Poor fellow.
Naturally enough, whether someone answers your calls or not says a great deal. If someone doesn’t take your calls, then that indicates clearly where you stand. Outside, crying like a sissy. For God’s sake, toughen up.
As such, the phone is very useful tool for showing you were you fit in someone else’s value hierarchy. It also works the other way: you can get a clearer picture of how much you value someone else by your phone behavior with them.
In my case, my mobile generally just sits in my backpack. I got it mainly so I could call people from the airport when traveling (“yeah, the flight is delayed another six hours…wait, the airline just went bankrupt”) or for emergency use (“yeah, there is some sort of rabid goat attacking people on Main Street. You might want to do something about that. Why, yes, it is a dirty goat.”).