Yesterday in my yoga class, someone took a call on their mobile phone. Not a “I’m at yoga; will call you back” call either, but a prolonged two-way conversation that involved a lot of listening, some suggesting and proferring of ideas that we all got to hear, since the yoga studio is small. My yoga teacher said, “Let’s just have a pause in the child pose while Isabel takes her call”, and then after a while, “It’s taking longer than I thought. Let’s move on then.”
The mere fact that her phone was on during yoga class is astonishingly rude. The fact that she answered it and then went on to have a four-minute conversation is staggering. The fact that she returned to the class and DIDN’T APOLOGISE is mind-blowing. I think it’s the self-importance that enrages me more than the rudeness – if you are having a crisis in your life that requires you to be available 24/7, DON’T COME TO YOGA. Otherwise, switch off your bloody phone, take a message and call back afterwards. The class only lasts an hour.
Today’s Times Online has a great article on how technology, particularly mobile phones and those relationship-threateners, BlackBerrys and iPhones, is promoting a new level of distractedness not only from the moment but from those most important to us. Couples are having to lay down ground rules as to when BlackBerry use is acceptable and when not – during an anniversary dinner, not acceptable; on the beach while on holiday with your family, NOT acceptable. The article says:
However, the only way a new etiquette can really work is through increased self-awareness on the part of the user. For starters, users have to realise how their behaviour can affect others. As Lloyd-Elliot says: “There is something arrogant about the mindset that goes with this trend — the sense of always thinking that what you’ve got to say is so important it can’t wait. There’s also an absence of thoughtful empathy; how you are making those around you feel.”
Dr Emma Short, a senior lecturer in psychology, agrees. “It’s about being mindful about the choices you make. Whenever you take a call or reply to a message in front of someone, you are prioritising what is an absent presence.” In terms of your relationship and how your partner feels, she says, think about who you are promoting above whom when you hear that beep or see that flashing light.
I remember when mobile phone use first became ubiquitous sitting around and waiting in social situations for people to complete their very important phone conversation so that they could get back to conversing with me. I resolved never to have one. Since having children, I’ve caved in and I have to admit it is a useful tool – on holiday in Greece, my kids were able to chat to their dad in Germany and I could abuse the cheap car company when yet another of their crap vehicles broke down. But a mobile is nothing more than that, a tool, and one of which we should be in charge and to which we should not allow ourselves to become victim.
Isabel’s vague shrug as she returned to the yoga class yesterday was just that, the shrug of a victim. Her shrug said, “Don’t blame me, blame my phone.”
I think what overreliance on mobile technology most underscores is the inability to be in the moment. If you have to pick up the phone to tell someone what a great time you’re having WHILE YOU’RE HAVING IT, then how much fun are you actually having? And if you can’t switch off from your life for a one-hour yoga class – a place where more than anywhere you are practising the art of being in the moment – then PERHAPS YOU SHOULDN’T ATTEND.