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iPhone vs. Eye Contact

By Hannah Reich Berman

Where have all the manners gone? It strikes me as odd that so many intelligent and well-brought-up people are caught up in this iPhone madness. I’m sure the iPhone is an invaluable tool, however, I don’t own one. In fact, I have never owned an iPad or an iPod. And while I’m making these humiliating confessions that, in all likelihood, label me a dinosaur, I might as well acknowledge that, until recently, I didn’t know what the “i” stands for. But I looked it up and discovered that the “I” is for “internet, individual, instruct, inform, and inspire.” And now that I know that, I am no better off and still have no use for one.

My reference to lost manners is because many people who, prior to owning an iPhone, would never have whispered into someone’s ear in front of others, are now doing something just like it. These same people would also never have been a guest sitting in someone’s home and open a book or take out a crossword puzzle. These things are simply not done in polite society. But along came the iPhone and suddenly all bets are off as all too many users forgo (or perhaps forget) simple rules of etiquette. This doesn’t mean everyone. But, as one of my grade school teachers used to bark when she was unable to determine who flung a spitball at the blackboard, the guilty parties know who they are. For these folks, the “I” is in and the “eye” seems to be out. It appears that it is totally acceptable to do anything and everything on an iPhone regardless of where one is. It’s not always clear to me exactly what the users are doing, but my best guess is that they’re playing games, looking up some piece of information that they must have on the spot, or reading their e-mail.

Things certainly have changed, Initially people used cell phones to take only important calls but, eventually, the word important was dropped from the equation and folks went on to take (or make) calls about the most mundane of matters. And, not long after that, those tiny little phones began to be used almost exclusively for sending and receiving text messages. Actual phone calls became obsolete as cell phones morphed into iPhones which morphed into mini computers that enable the user to read or send e-mails. In short, in one fashion or another, people are often communicating with others who are not in the room, which gives new meaning to the word rudeness—to those of us who are in the room.

The big discussion among two iPhone owners is often about which of them has the most updated version of the phone. I overheard one gal say to her friend, “I traded in my iPhone3 and I got a 4. It’s even better than the iPhone 4S.” Not to be outdone, her friend replied, “I just got a 5 and it’s so fast it’s amazing.” What the issue with speed is I do not understand, but then there isn’t much about all this iPhone usage that I do understand. Curious about what the ‘S” stood for in iPhone 4S, I checked it out and learned that the “S” stands for Siri. That’s just great! So now I know. Unfortunately, I have no idea what Siri is so I’m back to square one. And there is little point in searching further because, if I’ve learned anything, it is that the more I learn about these things the less I know! I have come far. I now accept the notion of wanting to make an occasional call or to send a text message, but that’s where it ends for me. I have become a dumbosaurus. For those unfamiliar with the dumbosaurus, it’s my term for a type of dinosaur, specifically one who fails to comprehend why people have to be constantly connected and accessible in so many ways.

What’s wrong with doing it my way? I read and respond to e-mail messages in the evening when I’m in the privacy of my own home. During the day, calls and texts from the outside are more than enough for my purposes. I am reasonably certain that I am not alone here. I know for sure that Hubby would have been right there with me on this matter. And, like me, he wouldn’t have cared at all about being labeled a dinosaur. He used to claim that his fingers were too large for cell phone use. Although he had a cell phone, he rarely used it. Hubby was a wholesaler of smoked fish, and as I often told him, it was “fishy” that he was able to call out (he would call me at any hour of the day) but when I would try to reach him, he never answered his phone.

Women seem to be more preoccupied with this iPhone mishugas than are the men, but I could be wrong about that. Possibly I see it that way because I spend more time in the company of women than men. Now and then I have seen a man take an iPhone out of his pocket, but usually he does that only because he needs some important information, such as where a certain movie is playing or what time it starts. Females, however, seem to be taking things to a whole new level. I’ve had the misfortune to be in the company of some women who rarely lift their heads. They appear to be oblivious to the fact that they are not alone and that there are others in the room with them. They almost never join in the conversation. The only dialogue that seems to hold their interest is one that they have with someone who is not in the room.

It is off-putting and there is a good reason that I refer to it as a misfortune to be with these people. The possibility exists that while sitting or standing next to someone using her iPhone, I might fall to the floor in a dead faint and the person would never know I was down! I would have to rely on the few souls in the room who are not iPhone-crazy to help me. What if I should suddenly find myself choking on a piece of food? I would have to hope that anyone who happens to be familiar with the Heimlich maneuver is not also busy playing a game or reading an e-mail. It might take a good hard shake from another bystander, or possibly a swift kick in the shin, to get the game player to look up. But, in the meantime, if I am choking, I could possibly suffer brain damage from oxygen deprivation and, given my lack of knowledge and understanding about most of this high tech stuff, any further brain insufficiency would be most unfortunate. Just how much can one person be excused for not knowing?

I have never in my life fainted and I certainly hope not to find myself choking anytime soon, but there is a first time for everything. In any case, I’m not excited about being in the company of people who don’t seem to know I’m there. I find myself fruitlessly searching for eye contact. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or

516-902-3733.

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Posted by on January 17, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.