Head bowed, mobile phone in hand, I precariously ascend several stone steps en route to the cafe’s entrance. I smile as a waitress directs me to my “table for two,” before turning to leave me to my own (electronic) devices. Hypnotised by HTC, I unglue gaze not grasp to welcome my iPhone-clutching friend.

Settling down, we simultaneously switch off. We are each as technologically dependent as the masses, but neither of us has forgotten the importance of obeying ‘The Textiquette.’

Bar a brief teen fling with a (bright pink) Motorola RAZR, I have never possessed a fancy phone. Truth be told, until embarrassingly recently I remained one of the few pay-as-you-go customers currently facing extinction.

Years passing, my lack-of-credit-excuse no longer washing, it was time to embrace the inevitable. And embrace it I did. Since entering a contract, for better or for worse, my eyes have been opened to a world-wide-web of possibility. With the power to Email, WhatsApp, Google, all clutched in the palm of my hand, grows a new understanding for the digitally dependent.

The levels of textiquette demanded of the technologically tuned-in remain annoyingly context specific.

Such understanding ensures a blind eye is turned when the busy companion briefly checks a buzz. It invokes acceptance when the apologetic acquaintance appeals for permission to take a call and even leads to shameful delight when a shared Facebook-stalk obligingly identifies names unknown.
However, unfortunately for many, this new found understanding permits no deterrence from The Textiquette.

Such rules mandate that, mobile though they may be, there is a time and place for phones and similarly to the rules of etiquette, the levels of textiquette demanded of the technologically tuned-in remain annoyingly context specific. Most understand formality demands phone-scarcity…the vigilant glares my vibrating phone has received in the workplace suggest such textiquette remains not only relevant, but compulsory.

The friends sit in silence, each one of them grasping their phones in hand, with sets of speedy thumbs blurring, and smoke rising as buttons are abused.

Ironically however, when face to face with the very friends we were texting from that said workplace, we too often find ourselves “just sending a quick text, mate” to someone else.

Across the bistro we find EXHIBIT A. It’s the Easter break and four friends are crowded around an atmospherically lit table offering good food, good drink and the potential for good company. Instead they sit in silence, each one of them grasping their phones in hand, with sets of speedy thumbs blurring, and smoke rising as buttons are abused. My friend deliberates aloud:“I wonder if they are texting each other?”

Being our first reunion in six months, yet feeling entirely updated on one another’s lives, my friend and I are the first to praise our resistance to technology. Yet, viewing such uncommunicative company prompts us to renew our own contract: a promise not to let the Facebook replace the Face-to-Face. Not to let typed WhatsApps replace spoken ‘What’s Ups?’

 From this dinner forward, our phones will be to have and not to constantly hold.

Lizzie Neep

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Image: Jhaymesisviphotography via Flickr.

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