QUICK ONE: In My Day, 2017 Edition

A smartphone against the backdrop of a pub.

‘Whatever happened to having a conversation, instead of tapping away at screens? That’s what I want to know.’

We’ve been on the receiving end of a version of that heckle twice in the past month. What we did to earn it was, of course, being caught in the pub with one or more smartphones out.

There are all sorts of good reasons for looking at your phone in the pub, even in company. In our case, we’re often taking notes for one project or other, tinkering with a photo of the very pub we’re in for social media, or looking up the answer to an important question that’s come up like, what is the etymology of the word ‘poo’? (Only used to refer to faeces in the UK since the 1960s, apparently.)

In other words, it’s part of the way we make conversation, not an obstruction to it.

And, anyway, we’ve been together for very nearly 20 years so if one of us does want the other to put down their phone, we’re pretty comfortable just saying: ‘Oi! Give me some attention! You’re being boring.’

Both times we’ve received this kind of telling off it’s come from older men and hasn’t felt friendly, or as if was intended as a conversation starter — just like a kind of drive by judgement.

Why do people do insert themselves into other people’s business this way? And does it bother you to see people looking at screens in the pub?

8 thoughts on “QUICK ONE: In My Day, 2017 Edition”

  1. I don’t really see it as being too different to sitting in the pub reading the paper, and I can’t imagine anyone shouting at someone for doing that.

    However, I’m all for pubs that encourage people not to make calls on their phones as that does feel more intrusive and annoying.

    I suppose the best pubs are a bit of a refuge from the world outside and mobiles can feel like that refuge is being compromised somehow.

    1. As someone who does both on occasions, I’d say that browsing a smartphone isolates you from your environment a lot more than reading the paper. The focus and field of vision are different, and added to that there’s the feeling of having to constantly check for updates which doesn’t apply to a paper.

      Having said that, having a go at others for doing *anything* in a pub that basically just involves minding their own business is pretty objectionable. In a recent post, B&B were discussing being made to feel welcome in pubs, but this is the negative side of sociability.

      What gets me is people wandering around in the street, glued to their screens and oblivious to their surroundings.

  2. Sounds envious to me – they haven’t got what you’ve got (an OH to sit quietly in the pub with) so they go for what looks like your weak spot. Oh, they look happy enough, but have you seen? They’re not even talking to each other! Crying shame…

  3. The scroll is definitely a part of my life and the irony is I might be having a conversation with people not in the pub I’m in but elsewhere in Britain via Twitter. Maybe if someone piped up I’d tell them what I was reading and start a conversation about it – depends if they come across as sociable or proscriptive.
    I’m increasingly seeing people in their 60s and 70s engaged in the scroll too

  4. This happened to me at the weekend. To be fair the old guy who demanded I turn my phone off did have a pretty good joke to tell me, but it seems weird that any given stranger should feel the need to dictate to me how I enjoy my pint, company or afternoon. Agree with the sentiments above – how is reading blog posts/twitter/magazine articles on my phone any different to reading a book (which I would also do in a pub?)

  5. Frankly I think the old boy is right although entirely out of order to make it any of his business telling you.
    But it is one of the great joys of never having been on social media or having 1G,2G,3G or 4G that I only use a ‘phone for what it was originally intended for – to receive and send calls or messages.
    It’s just a bit sad to see two people in a pub and,even worse,over a meal in a restaurant basically scrolling through crap rather than having a conversation.
    It is their choice,naturally,but a very dull one.

  6. I do look up things that were part of the conversation, usually beer or brewery related, sometimes not. I do draw the line when I have to wait to be served because the landlady is engrossed in Facebook!

  7. Although I agree with the broader point about phones taking over (& i’m as guilty of it as anyone), he needs to keep his beak out

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