How Connected is Too Connected?

7 Mar

Last night marked the beginning of Boston Restaurant Week, which lasts not for one, but for two, glorious weeks. The boyfriend and I dined at The Capital Grille, and while the food was fabulous, this particular post is about what happened at the table next to us during dinner. It was an appalling commentary of where we as a society have come.

Three gentlemen were enjoying their clam chowder appetizers, each of them focused on their handheld smart phones throughout the course. I found this odd. Why go to dinner with others if you are not going to communicate with them? But, I thought, it can’t possibly last throughout the entire meal…

What a fool this mortal be. Their antisocial behavior continued throughout the main course; each man’s eyes were glued to his phone as he robotically and methodically brought fork to mouth, probably not even enjoying the silky goodness of the 14 oz. bone-in Kona-crusted dry aged sirloin with caramelized shallot butter, creamed spinach, and mashed tatoes!!! (Clearly, I, on the other hand, did enjoy.)

The boyfriend commented that maybe they were businessmen taking care of important business, though regardless of circumstances, this circus was reaching an absurd point. However, one of the three men was dressed like a total schlub, and I thus refute the idea that they were businessmen taking care of important business.

Halfway through the entrée, one of the men managed to put his phone away. What a relief! A human being was restored to this table of cyborgs! Sadly for our friend, his compadres were still carrying out their love affairs with their devices, and so he was left staring blankly at a wall decorated with a moose head. The moose was probably better company anyway.

Wired.

Dessert came. A second man snapped back to life! A real, live conversation using human mouths was taking place! Incredulously, the third man did not put his phone away. He did not speak a word the whole night. He did not put his device down or look up once. After the meal was over, he rose from his seat and walked to the door – STILL entranced by his paramour.

Can you imagine being at a table with these people? While I have never dined with someone so blatantly rude, I have experienced meals with those who begin laughing for no reason – only to realize that they are laughing at something their digital friend just said. What has happened to etiquette? Manners? Normal social human interaction? Don’t get me wrong. Technology obviously has its myriad benefits. Websites like Facebook have revolutionized the way we connect with others, and to be sure, there are perks to that. But it would be asinine to aver that there are no negative consequences to this new way of life. When does being connected become too connected?

Where is that fine line between maintaining meaningful and personal relationships and establishing shallow “relationships” online, for example, in the Twitterverse? I have seen people texting while crossing the street, nearly getting hit by cars, and not even realizing it. I have been subject to conversations that revolve around nothing other than how great a certain device is. There is nothing more boring to me than debating the merits of a Blackberry versus an iPhone. Is this really what people have to talk about now? I am so grateful for my dinky little “feature phone” – a phone without all that glitz and glamour – because my life is not being controlled by a thing. I don’t have to constantly update everyone with every minute detail of my life. I am not trying to display my wit, humor, or trivial information in 140 characters for the joy (or displeasure) of a bunch of followers. I am living my life in the moment instead of interrupting an experience to post about it online as it’s happening.

It’s very Fahrenheit 451ish, if you ask me.

At the rate we’re going, I fear that soon all social interactions will resemble those of the three droids seated next to me during dinner, a future where we have become so “connected” that we can’t turn off. And it seems that sometimes disconnecting is the only way we can savor the real relationships right in front of us and truly connect.

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One Response to “How Connected is Too Connected?”

  1. June March 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Ironically, those “conversations” are not even conversations in the sense of conversing about ideas, thinking, and responding. It’s more about minute, shallow interactions. Love your blog. Food (no pun intended) for thought.

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