Michael Taylor is an old curmudgeon, but at least he admits that he is a curmudgeon, cf. this week’s Blood Sweat, and Tedium. In it, he complains about the ubiquitous use of cell phones, not just on sets, but everywhere in modern society.
While I don’t remember ever not having a computer in my home (I barely remember not having internet), there was a brief window in in my childhood when no one had cell phones or iPods or any sort of personal device beyond maybe a calculator watch.
Maybe it’s lost in the mists of memory, but I don’t recall people being particularly chatty with strangers while, say, waiting in line at the bank. Everyone just stood quietly in line and stared off into space.
Is staring into a glowing screen all that much worse? Arguably, it’s better. Instead of standing around, slack jawed and bored, I’m learning about world events, reading books on my Kindle app, catching up with an old friend about her children. Or maybe just looking at funny cat gifs.
Whether you believe this portends the end of society probably depends on how old you are. After all, back when Mike was but a young boy, people feared that TV would end literacy. Hell, go back even further, and no less than Socrates objected to literacy itself.1
If you’re a luddite, by all means, stick to your flip phone (or no phone). But for my part, I’m happy I have something to occupy my mind when I’m doing mindless tasks.
That being said, Mike does have appoint about cell phones on set:
These days, any break in the action on set prompts 80% of the crew to pull out their phones and stare into that little glowing screen, surfing the net, playing video games, or texting.
There is definitely something wrong here. You’re on the clock. You’re being paid not just to work, but to be ready to work at any moment. What in the world are you doing, checking your phone?
More important than not being ready, you don’t look ready.2 Your boss sees you texting or tweeting or whatever, she might start to wonder if she needs you around at all. Worse still, the PA (or AC or SLT or whatever acronym you are) next to you is not texting. Guess who she’s going to hire next time.
Plus, you’re not surrounded by strangers at the post office. These are people you know and work with. Why aren’t you talking with them? Make new friends, instead of messaging old ones on Facebook.
If your wife is nine months pregnant, or your dad is in the hospital, or you have some other urgent, something-could-happen-at-any-moment situation, by all means, keep your phone in your pocket.
Otherwise, leave it in your car or your ditty bag. The text can wait until lunch.