Monday, March 4, 2013

Necessary Evil – Or Blessing in Disguise?

by Suzie Johnson

I love all things technology, so it’s ironic that took me so long to embrace texting. Not long after my son and sister pulled me into it kicking and screaming, I went on a conference/vacation trip to Florida.

One night after dinner while my son was on the phone to his friends, I answered a text from my sister. As soon as I pressed send, I overheard my son say, “My mother is texting like a thirteen-year-old girl.” He paused and said, “No, seriously.” Then he laughed.

I wasn’t sure whether to feel insulted or complimented.

The next morning at the conference, the ladies sitting behind me were chatting faster than I could text. I know because my friend, Lynda, and I were texting back and forth.

Like thirteen-year-old girls?


Our subject matter:
  • The ladies behind us were annoying and they kept us from hearing the speaker.
  • The 100 degree heat and 99% humidity was miserable. Why was it so humid here anyway?
  • The hammocks between the palm trees on the lake outside would be a great place to spend the afternoon. Too bad there was a slate of boring lectures scheduled.
  • Oh, but we could get our lunch and lay in the hammocks until the afternoon lectures began. What were we going to eat for lunch, anyway?
  • And where were we going to eat dinner tonight? An Irish pub, Planet Hollywood, or Rainforest Café?

When I left the conference room for a quick break, I had quite the revelation when I returned. There were almost a thousand people in the giant ballroom and I didn’t see my seat immediately. But I did see something else. The speaker, a male oncologist in a room full of mostly women, was speaking away and looking out at the audience. But a good 90% of the audience wasn’t looking at him.

They were tapping away at their cell phones.

Could it be they were taking notes? Maybe a few were, but I’m certain that more were texting, playing games, or reading the news or their Facebook feeds since it’s far easier to take notes on paper than on a cell phone.

Oh. My. My. My!

A wash of shame spread through me as I tiptoed toward my now-located seat, wondering how it must feel to have nearly a thousand people texting and playing games on their phone instead of listening to a lecture that took a lot of work to prepare.

For the rest of the lecture I looked at the speaker, even though I couldn’t hear him because of the women behind us. And for the rest of the conference, I tried really hard not to touch my cell phone. It wasn’t easy.

But I’m not the only one. I see people in restaurants looking bored, while the person they’re with is texting or chatting away. I know people who constantly text instead of joining a conversation while with a group of friends or co-workers. Everywhere you look, people have a phone attached to them in some manner, either stuck to their ear or in one hand, while the other one is hitting the keys – or tapping the screen.

Is this good, or bad?

How about a little bit of both?

Advancing technology is always a good thing, for too many reasons to discuss here. I’ve come to love every single piece of technology my cell phone offers me. My sister and I have grown closer through texting. My mother’s even learned to text so she can keep in instant touch as well.  

On the negative side, people have grown so addicted to instant access on their phones they want it everywhere else as well; dinner with family or friends, movies, meetings, church.

Church? Really?

Unfortunately, yes.

At the memorial service for my pastor, the man sitting next to me was texting. So was a man on the end of the aisle two rows up and across from me. What, I ask you, could be so important you have to check your text messages during your pastor’s memorial service? Seriously? If something is that important, it would be far more respectful to excuse yourself.

Those two things – the women texting at the conference and the men texting at my pastor’s memorial service – showed me cell phones can be an addiction for many people. I choose not to be addicted to anything. So – I’m trying really hard not to text unless I’m alone.

But if I’m being ignored because the person I’m with is texting or talking on the phone, you’ll probably find me checking my texts, my email, and my, um…

…Let’s just say I now need to tackle my Pinterest addiction fascination. 

Suzie Johnson’s husband calls her Mrs. Gadget. Her debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, is out now from White Rose Press of The Pelican Book Group. Her second novel, True North, will be out later this year. She is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. Suzie and her husband are the parents of a wonderful grown son who makes them proud every day – even though he lives way too far away. Suzie and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with their naughty little cat on an island that is definitely not tropical. You can visit her at the following places:


  1. I took my youngest out for a special meal recently. Usually we let him play on a phone when we're at a sit down restuarant so he doesn't get bored, but since it was just the two of us, he got a lesson on dinner conversation instead :)

    And, can I just say, I think the rudest thing to do at a conference is knitting. Way worse than a phone, upon which you could be taking notes.

    As for church, many people at my church use their phones for the Bible apps.

  2. Ah, Dins. The click-click-click of needles. I know. There's on doctor who knits during tumor board. Not only does she knit, she doesn't even sit in the back of the room. The first time I saw that, I was shocked.

    Bible apps are good. The guys at the memorial service were definitely texting, though. I could clearly see that. And they were definitely close to my age. It made me sad.

    1. Dins! Could you tell I was using my cell phone? I meant Dina, but I kind of like Dins. :-)

  3. I kind of like Dins, too! LOL

    Great insights, Suzie. I'm sad when I see texting during worship services, lectures, etc too. I don't have a lot of tolerance for it sometimes, especially when people are supposed to be working with kids.

    When my husband did youth ministry, he had a "Big Bucket O' Phones" for the kids. No texting during youth group.

  4. Big bucket o' phones! I love it, Susie.

    Hey, Dins, how do you think a big bucket o' knitting needles would go over? ;-)

  5. Ha ha. I might try that when I teach at conferences. No knitters in any of my classes yet, thank goodness.

  6. we have a no cell phone rule for dinner time, no matter the location - especially if we're with friends. right now, mommy has a baggie o crayolas for toddler to color with when at a restaurant. he likes to have everyone help color with him. *heh* daddy's android phone has a couple apps for desperate times.

    we're trying to avoid technology ruining our interaction because my DH has been quite hurt by the times his daughter (first marriage) has visited and basically ignored him for her iPod and smartPhone. we took both away from her one day and caught he## from his ex because of it. *sigh*

    good reminder post on how to focus on the people we're with. always good to have that reminder. i do need it at times. i can get carried away by reading a book and ignore what's going on around me. so i guess high-tech isn't the only culprit.

  7. I came late to the texting thing, too, Suzie. Now I find myself turning to my find when I'm in social situations that make me feel uncomfortable or awkward. Talk about an obvious escape route! :)

    I've never seen anyone knitting in a meeting or in church. I think the clickety-clack of needles in a meeting might drive me batty.

  8. Hi DebH,

    My mom has also had that happen to her. And it was pretty bad. The people she was visiting were all in the same room texting each other with my mom in the room. She was very hurt by it.

  9. LOL. I must start proofreading my comments... I meant "PHONE" not "find." It has been one of those days.

  10. Lol, Niki. What does it mean that I understood completely? I tend to do the same thi ng when I'm feeling uncomfortable. Something to focus on for sure. :-)

  11. Forgive me, all of you who love your texts, but I HATE them. Yes, I can see where it would be useful from time to time, but my formerly non-tech sister now haw a smart phone. I swear it's glued to her.

    "Oh, you have to see this video!"

    "Oh, look at this!"

    "Isn't THIS cute?"

    (No, that's not texting, but it's related. It's constant and practically in lieu of conversation.)

    When she and her husband are visiting with the family and especially at dinner, they text each other. They're sitting in the same room, usually beside each other, and they text. It's like whispering in front of people. It's so rude!

    And, no matter what else is going on, there are all the little dings and whatever to notify them they have texts.

    And don't get me started on drivers who text. That's just insane.

    Yes, texting can be wonderful and useful and helpful, but it's totally out of control.

    Obviously, I have an opinion. Forgive me, those of you who text responsibly. :)

  12. I hate texting. I have trouble remembering to turn my phone on or turn the sound back on. Now...if I had internet on it... that might change.

    I think it's pretty rude but, we are now a nation or rude people. No doubt. I seem to get a special joy out of seeing someone be polite, hold a door, say thank you. It's become a rarity.

  13. DeAnna, what your sister is doing reminds me of when everyone started having email and they'd flood you with jokes instead of actually in place of a conversation. My mom had a friend who moved away and promised to stay in touch. She did. Every day she'd send an email with a joke in it. Never ever was there any conversation or even a salutation. Eventually, my mom routed all of the friend's email into the trash.

  14. Deb, I love love love internet on my phone. Last month when I was going to south Seattle, I wasn't sure what exit I needed to take when I got there. Before I left, I looked it up on the internet, but imagine my surprise when soneone in my phone said "turn left off O'Leary Street and right onto Narrows. Then turn..." I have a gps navigator in my phone! How cool is that? I'd almos t bought one the weekend before. I'm so glad I didn't.

    And then there's the pinterest app on my phone. Oh my.

    And I do like the texts from my son, sister, and niece.

    Just know: I never text and drive. I can't even answer my phone and drive. So dangerous!

  15. I am not big into texting, but even if I did, I think there's a time and place for it. You bring up some good points that we need to be more aware of where we are texting, and if we are disrespecting people as we do so.

    When my inlaws visit, they are always texting. They take texts during dinner, and this drives me up the wall. We finally made a comment that everyone should put them away for a good old fashioned family meal. LOL, they got the hint I think!

  16. Hi Angela,

    I remember when my son came to visit. It's a two hour drive from the airport and we couldn't have a conversation because every sentence was interrupted by the little ding of a text that he just "had" to read. It drove me up that same wall!

    I'm glad your inlaws got the hint. I'm also glad you stopped by.

  17. Texting is definitely the best way to communicate with my teenagers when they aren't at home. That's what got me started. And back to the conferences, it's a great, unobstrusive way to find people in a room of 500+. I even confess to texting with friends during a boring lecture. I think we do need more instruction on texting etiquette, though.

  18. Dina, communicating with your kids is one of the many blessings of texting, I believe. And yes, it's definitely the best way to find and/or keep track of friends during a conference. I love texting now that I've started it. I just have to figure out my boundaries. ;-)


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