Oct 20th, 2017, 11:42 AM

How to Lose Me as a Friend

By Beth Grannis
Image Credit: Shutterstock/RoxyBurrow
Think twice before you let your thumbs do the talking at the table.

Yes, the title of this article is as harsh as it sounds. And no, this is not tough love.

This is an outcry of pure frustration with my generation. How have we let ourselves become this self-absorbed? You might disagree with me or you might even be the culprit in this story. If that's the case, maybe it’s best we don’t meet. But there is a chance that you will be chanting a resounding, “Yes!” when this is all said and done. I’m curious to know your thoughts.

How many times have you been out with a friend and mid-conversation, they whip out their cell phone? Not because they are waiting for an important call about a job interview, or a family member is on their deathbed. No, no. It’s something far more important, like typing “lol” to a meme their friend just sent. Or checking in on the periodic conversation stringing along an ex-boyfriend from college for a quick self-esteem boost. And after the interruption, which was apparently redeemed because of a few performed “uh-huh” or “don’t worry, I’m listening”, we are meant to pick back up and pretend they didn’t just turn off their brain for fifteen seconds while I continued to try and make a decent human connection.

For someone who has always suffered from an undercurrent of social anxiety (cue the memories of driving to high school with the air conditioning on full blast and a tissue at hand to help curb the worry-induced pools of sweat), getting me out of the house is already a struggle enough. Add a piece of technology which literally connects you to thousands of other people and then tell me I’m supposed to compete with all of them? I’m out. I might as well be out alone with a better book than I have company.

Image Credit: Flickr/Gabriele Guerra

And it seems that I'm not the only one. My icy heart thawed slightly when I learned that there are people out there who also hate this digital slap in the face enough to make an app out of it. When out with friends, put all of your phones on the table, and the first person who absentmindedly lurches forward to grab their phone to check something is responsible for picking up the bill for the entire table. Who’s free for Thai this Friday?

I know, I know. We live in an age where we have the ability to connect with anyone from our past and have the joys of staying in touch with those that we rarely get to see, it’s incredible, it really is. But isn’t there also a case for respecting your own time and not making yourself so available? Doesn’t it get exhausting to split your attention and so sloppily spread your intention when interacting with people that having a meaningful, uninterrupted conversation is considered rare?

In the same vein, our dependency on technology not only keeps us from deeply interacting with those we’ve made plans with, but also hinders genuine connections and weakens foundational material for what comprises some of our best stories throughout life. I have a friend who always uses the late Tom Petty as an example of missed opportunity. “Imagine,” he’d set the scene, “You’re in the crowd listening to Tom and suddenly you urgently feel the need to know where he was born.” Further philosophizing that, “In 1981, you’d turn to the cute girl next you and she’d reply, ‘Why, Gainesville, FL, of course’ -- cut to years later and this is the story you are telling your kids when you recall how you met their mom.” Now, you just Google it and end up forgetting it a few hours later.

So, if you want to lose me as a friend, or if you're not a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan, go ahead, text that new crush away. Snapchat your heart out and by all means, instagram that selfie that you and your prioritized pancakes just took and don’t forget to hashtag it for maximum likeage. Because even if it means waiting a little longer after cutting loose a few people who prefer the friendship of their phone over that of a human's, then I'm fine to dine alone.