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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