But I’ve never seen this before.
Today I had Sunday brunch with my brother at a neighborhood restaurant. When we were seated at our booth, the next table over was empty. Within a few minutes, a man was seated at the table. He was alone. Not unusual. He instantly pulls out his iPad and leans it into the keyboard stand. Okay, not that unusual, these days. I mean, it’s no more weird than having a quiet brunch by yourself reading your favorite Sunday newspaper, right? We’ve all done that.
A few minutes pass and another man joins him at the table. He’s got a laptop with him. He says a few words to the first man, then opens up his laptop and proceeds to….use it, I guess.
With the exception of the pleasantries exchanged when the second man came to sit and the order to the waiter, not a word was exchanged between them for the duration of the meal. One busied himself on his iPad and the other on his laptop.
They were in each other’s company, presumably by choice, since they decided to meet and eat together, but they were not interacting. At least not with each other.
I have never seen this before.
I’ve seen people text and talk to each other, walk together and text without talking, use their computer while in a room full of coworkers, family or friends but not two people meeting for Sunday brunch to share a meal and interact virtually but virtually not at all with each other.
I was recently telling someone that I now spend so much time on my laptop, that when it and I become idle, I get mad at it as If it were a person who is ignoring me. And let’s just blame fatigue on what I’m about to say–that I am quite sure there are multiple people inside my laptop who, at times, all capriciously and at once decide to ignore me.
I can tell you’re making the same face she was.
Let me explain. There’s the screen with the “people” I’m emailing back and forth. Then there’s the inevitable Yahoo IM “conversation” with a friend or family member in Europe that pops up–repeatedly.
I don’t use Twitter or Facebook. I do have a life.
Then, there’s the screen on which I’m researching, drafting or editing something like this. Which means I have a screen for Google, WordPress and, minimally, The New York Times, CNN.com and iTunes.
There are people on the other end of all of these interactions. I just don’t see them. But I know I’m having a very personal experience with them. And you. (Isn’t it time for a haircut?)
Then, there’s Skype. The Skype video chat with a client in LA for 3 hours a nite to figure out his 13 wardrobe changes for his new reality series.
And last but not least, let’s not forget porn.
I didn’t say I had a fully satisfactory life. (One of these days I’ll have time to write about how the internet has revolutionized the experience of sex. Till then, just keep it in your pants.)
On the days when I don’t have to leave the home office, you can see why each virtual interaction takes on a personality of its own–though the only personality in the room is mine.
Now, imagine what it feels like on those days where I have neither a client to meet or any real reason to be on my computer. Where did all of these people go?
I will not be ignored.
Like I said, I see people. All the time.
As luck would have it, I came across this great essay on NYTimes .com that I highly recommend you read. “Quality time, redefined,” by Alex Williams
Tom Kolovos is Editor In Chief of aControlledSubstance.