Addicted to text messaging: Is it ever taboo?
The lighting in the snug bistro was perfectly dimmed. The table was piled with food and wine. A French guitarist played furiously. After taking in the scene from her seat, Heesun Wee felt she had to Twitter it and fished her cell phone out of her purse.
Wee, 36, paused to beg the pardon of her companions and then, with thumbs flying, tapped out a message about the cool Williamsburg find to a group of online "followers" with whom she regularly shares discoveries via Twitter, a personal news ticker that allows users to type only 140 characters per tweet.
Not long ago, merely answering a cell phone at the table was considered over-the-top rude. Now the devices are practically part of the place setting.Kymberli McKanna, an actress and server in an upscale Midtown restaurant, said more guests than not keep their BlackBerrys within easy reach. And McKanna, 26, and her friends are no different. "If we're all at the bar or having dinner, nine times out of 10 everyone has their phone on the table. ... We're always wanting to be connected to the world and whatever is out there."
That need for connection has led millions to use some form of text-messaging. So, what are the rules? Is it taboo to text? Impolite to IM? Is it OK to fire off a quick OMG?
Absolutely not, says etiquette expert Samantha von Sperling. For her, the rules are clear: "The person in front of you should always take precedence over the person who is not in front of you. When you start texting someone in the company of other people, it's extremely offensive .You're basically saying, My cyber, social network is more important to me than you are.'"
Fernando Arrue, a junior at St. John's University in Queens, isn't sure the implications are quite so serious. He sends up to 20 text messages per day, sometimes during class and in restaurants. A fast zap, he figures, is better than an extended verbal chat. "I only think it's rude when overused," he said.
Toye Honeyman, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan sees and pros and cons to the boom in cell phone communing. "People are finding ways to meet their deeper needs for community and contact and attachment. The problem is when it becomes overdone or interferes with real interpersonal relationships."
That interference is what dismays the "Vanishing New York" blogger who goes by the fictional name, Jeremiah Moss. When I walk down the street I get bombarded with these people who aren't paying attention. ... It makes me feel very disconnected from a city I used to feel very in tune with," he said. He has a name for these cell phone people: Yunnies, which stands for "Young Urban Narcissists."
Indeed, according to an article in Psychology Today, at the first hint of boredom, sadness or uncertainty more people are pulling out their phones, or "pacifiers for adults," as one professor called them, in lieu of experiencing and working through their feelings.
So what comes next? A world where typed shorthand permanently replaces conversation? von Sperling hopes the novelty will wear off and that users will self-regulate. Moss sees a more alienated society.
"If you're having a relationship with an electronic device, you kind of start thinking electronically," he said. "I'm not so much into sci-fi, but I think of the (part human, part machine) Borg."