Old School or Too Old School, Volume 1: Cell Phones in a Group Setting

Okay, okay, okay. It’s late Saturday night I have to work tomorrow, so I thought I’d quickly write up a new segment I want to start. You see, a lot of people I know call themselves ‘old school.’ And when they say this, it’s in a rather proud, unapologetic way. Like this:

“What? You use a dishwasher to wash your dishes? Nah, I’m not letting some machine wash my dishes! I’ll wash them my own damn self! I’m old school!”

Well, it’s something like that. The assertion is that this new generation has lost something. Call it grit. Call it independence. Call it rigor. It doesn’t matter. People who are ‘old school’ want you to know that this shit doesn’t fly with them. That the dainty, self-centered, ultra-feel-good ways of the people younger than them (especially millennials) fail to meet the superior standard established by their generation.

Which is fine. I get it. But lately, I’ve found that, well, a lot of people who describe themselves as ‘old school’ are maybe a bit too old school. Here’s an example:

“Email? I don’t write email. If you care about somebody, you would sit down with a pen and some paper and write them a letter with your own damn hands. That’s how you show someone you care. Not with some email. Me, I don’t email. I’m old school.”

Yeah, but…email is pretty old school. It’s not like a new invention or anything.  And, to be honest, I don’t own paper. I just don’t have any. I don’t go to the store with writing paper on my shopping list. Because that’s a bit too old school. Everybody emails, so let’s stop being stubborn, cranky old people.

Then, there’s something like this:

“What? Your parents let you watch TV during dinner? You all just sit there and watch TV and nobody talks to each other? Oh, in my house, I would smash the TV with my walking cane if someone turned it on during dinner. That’s the time for a family to be together and talk to each other. There’s no TV during dinner in my house. I’m old school.”

See, now I find this to be at an acceptable level of old school. It sticks to traditional values without being insanely out of touch. This, to me, is acceptably old school. I don’t really agree, but I approve of its old schooly ways.

Okay, with all that explained, we now begin my blog’s new segment: Old School or Too Old School. Where we take a topic and determine if a person is acceptably traditionalist, or if that person is just old and nutty.

Today’s Topic: Cell phones in a group setting.

Let’s let the old school person explain:

“Oh, man, I was at a restaurant the other night, and there was a group of four people sitting together. But no one was talking to each other. Nope. They were all on their cell phones. I tell you, if I owned that place, I’d put a big sign up banning cell phones. People should be talking to each other, not busy texting away on their phones. If that was my joint, I’d tell them to leave. I’m old school.”

Okay, so let’s start with the traditional point of view. Like most old school complaints, this centers around the idea that people have lost touch with each other. That we just don’t communicate like we used to. And that’s a valid concern. It’s probably true that some people have difficulty interacting and are more comfortable messaging on whatsapp. To further this old school argument, there’s something to be said about how self-serving this all seems. It’s as though these people are telling each other, like, “Hey, friends, entertain me with interesting things…and if you don’t entertain me good enough…I’ll entertain myself by updating my Grinder profile.” Or something like that. In the old school mind, a person does not demand entertainment value from their company. They just demand…company…from their company.

Now the flip side of this is that the old school person isn’t realizing the greater good in what is happening. An old school person complains about the lack of connection between people, when we live in an age where we’re more connected with people than we ever have been. Why should these people be limiting their interactions to four? What is so bad about including other people who aren’t there in their conversation? If the complaint is that people are losing touch with each other…well…that’s just not true. We’re extremely in touch with each other, so much in touch, we can’t stand to be out of touch with each other. And hence we text and send emojis to people when they’re not around.

To continue the too old school argument, I think about my father, who used to literally leave our family sometimes and go talk to strangers if we bored him. Isn’t that how things were before cell phones? I remember going to a bar, and when I’d get sick of my friends, I’d go start talking with random people. Why is that any different from tuning out your friends in the restaurant and liking some stuff on Facebook? Essentially, in both cases, you’re giving your attention to a person you’re not hanging out with. But…

That brings us to the big truth – old school people hate group texting, because old school people irrationally hate cell phones.

Really, they irrationally hate all technology. But cell phones really piss them off. Cell phones are sort of what rock n roll or drive ins used to be, I guess. Evil young person stuff.

Anyways, here comes the verdict. Cell phones in groups – old school or too old school. 

Verdict: Old school. The fact that cell phone conversations are really no different from any other conversation will never be understood by someone who is old school. To an old school person, talking with your mouth is the only way two people can communicate. And because no one is talking with their mouths in our case study, the group cell phone dynamic is something appropriate for an old school person to complain about. However…

Then banning cell phones from the restaurant – too old school. Now you’ve gone too far and have become crazy.

All right, so that’s settled. Come back for more Old School vs. Too Old School sometime in the near future. Now I’m going to curl up and go to bed, until my cell phone alarm wakes me up, because I’m not old school, and I don’t rely on a rooster.


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