The latest addiction

There’s trouble brewing at a kitchen table near you. The trouble doesn’t stop there, following instead onto the couch, into the office and, for some, in the bedroom too.

Oddly, it’s mostly male friends and co-workers who complain the most about this new obsession. The explosion of personal electronic gadgets that do everything from phone, text, surf, play games or offer up millions of apps to spend idle time is becoming a concern. Some fear it is an addiction.

For the first little while, any gadget can be explained away as something new. But, there is a time soon thereafter where a novelty becomes an obsession. When friends or loved ones have to push for attention, it could well be that a problem is emerging.

Like most others with a smartphone, we find ourselves plugged in a bit too much. In this age of instant gratification, we can’t count the number of times that readers have delighted in a response to their question after hours. That qualifies to us as great customer service, but it causes us to question the impact on weekends, say, when family or social gatherings make for different demands upon our time. Certainly in the office it is a sore point when someone is trying to discuss something and yours truly has the phone, plus a smartphone and email on the go at the same time. We get the point and accept the looks when all three are on the go at once.

A very good friend has taken to shutting his mobile phone off completely on the weekend. Another professional we know suggests callers can leave a message, but should not expect a return call until Monday. Others yet are content to put the phone away until certain check-in times. It takes a bit of discipline, but it sure beats jumping up every two seconds to answer a text or email. Are those people onto something? Is there the prospect of an electronic temperance movement looming?

While adults struggle with the balance between work and home-life, texting becomes an issue for those who cannot shut it off.

Kids, of course, are an automatic concern, since texting and cyber visiting via social networks have led to an aversion for communicating otherwise. We can’t count the number of parents who tell us their kids will return a text or email, rather than make a phone call.

There could be some financial reason for kids away at school to save on phone bills, but, typically, that is their preferred way to chat.

A business colleague confided the other day that he can’t get his younger employees to follow up by telephone any more. They want to text or email instead of picking up the phone. Depending on the demographic of client, that could be disastrous since most purchasers of services and products expect some verbal communication – and good communication at that.

We have written before about the slang and jargon found in the texting universe. In fact for fun, visit the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster propped up with taxpayer money, and take a gander at the quality of commentary found on its opinion boards. It is a brutal medley of misplaced homonyms, crude sentence structure and spelling that would embarrass most readers. Texting has almost become a sub-language, taking away from the precision of English as we know it.

While there will always be those who take a good thing too far, it is something we should all think about and be on guard against.