It seems to have become an acceptable practice for some people to disappear every time they get a new text message.  We’re sharing the same physical space with the intent of connecting personally, but we aren’t.  And if we are, it’s fragmented, like those project team meetings you go to where everyone is on their laptop doing something else while the moderator drones on and a fraction of the group participates.

It’s another symptom of how short our attention spans have become and how much we crave new information.

Last week I was at a dinner party. Out of the six people there, I was the only one who wasn’t texting or checking Facebook on my phone. Nobody was enjoying that great dinner with friends. They were all somewhere else–Zeke Camusio in Is Our World Completely Insane?

More and more this seems culturally acceptable, like the next course of a meal or the thing we do when, heaven forbid, we’ve temporarily run out of things to talk about.  It’s great to see prominent online community members pushing against this. Chris Brogan doesn’t hold anything back in I’m Not Really Here,

If you’re looking at your phone and not me, you’re saying, “You’re not as important as these people who aren’t here with us right now.” If you’re checking your phone while we’re talking, you’re saying, “I really don’t care what you’re talking about.” If you’re into your phone and can’t seem to put it down, you’re telling me, “I can’t really focus, so what do you really expect from me if we work together?”

It’s not okay. Even though society seems to turn away politely while you do it. Even though we’re all digital junkies. Even though there are a hundred little exceptions.

To be fair, I don’t have a smart phone so maybe I don’t understand how hard this is.  In fact I barely have a cell phone in the form of a T-Mobile prepaid “plan,” which, by the way, is a great deal for my current situation of working from home.  If it rings I know it’s important because hardly anyone calls it.  For about $50 a year I have all the minutes I need which is about $900 a year cheaper than a contract plan.

So I’m curious, for those of you out there that feel the same way, what ways have you asked people in your presence to remain so?

And to ask a different question–beyond the obvious “my spouse is calling” or “my wife might be going into labor”–when and why do you think it is okay to interrupt an in-person conversation because you just got a new message?

Image by Ed Yourdon via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.