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NY Times' Ethicist Joins the 'Civility' Brigade

RadCivlittle.jpgRandy Cohen, the New York Times' Ethicist, has a typically thorough examination of the practice of texting in his blog today. He examines when it's okay and when it isn't okay.

When it isn't okay is when you're supposed to be paying attention to someone else: in a meeting, during a conversation, while engaged in intercourse, at a movie, concert or stage show. Writes Cohen:

Even a routine conversation demands continuity and the focus of attention: it cannot, without detriment, be disrupted every few moments while someone deals with a text message. More intimate encounters suffer greater harm. In romantic comedy, when someone breaks a tender embrace to take a phone call, that’s a sure sign of love gone bad. After any interruption, it takes a while to regain concentration, one reason few of us want our surgeon to text while she’s performing a delicate neurological procedure upon us. Here’s a sentence you do not want to hear in the operating room or the bedroom: “Now, where was I?”

Of course, hardcore texters will not be moved by Cohen's arguments. The rudeness of texting during a binary encounter -- two workmates, two friends, two family members -- is (or should be) obvious. The lone stranger who texts in the front row of the movie theater probably doesn't give a rodent's rectum whether others perceive him as being "rude." At best he is unaware of his disruptive behavior; at worst he enjoys irritating other people.

But perhaps the tide is turning. When the New York Times speaks, people listen. And I'm glad to see the Gray Lady's large chorus joining my tiny bleat of outrage.

By John Kelly  |  July 14, 2009; 9:55 AM ET
Categories:  Radical Civility  
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Re: "Paint it Black:" Assuming you can avoid any hints to your address, I think you should post a picture of your unintentional abstract art.

Posted by: spyderjerusalem | July 14, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Trying to think up a sentence I'd like to hear in both the operating room and the bedroom ... "Don't worry, your insurance will cover it"?

Posted by: jimward21 | July 14, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I have to believe that few of the movie and theater texters are by themselves. As a frequent solo theater and concert-goer, I find myself going out of the way not to stick out in the crowd. I suspect most of my fellow soloists are the same.

Posted by: mfromalexva1 | July 14, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

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