No doubt you are familiar with this scenario. You walk into a room and say hello to everyone. No one responds, because they all seem to be zombies with their mouths slightly open and their complete attention on the television. In fact you can just about say anything like “I quit my job” or “I drove my car over a cliff” and they will probably moan, ‘aha, that’s nice.’
It often seems that the more technology we possess, the more antisocial many of us become. It used to be that if we were invited into someone’s house for dinner, the TV was off. Perhaps a little music played in the background. The occasion fostered communication, a way of building friendships and interesting conversation.
I have noticed the same during business networking. I have sat down only to find everyone focused on their smartphones. They are reading e-mail, checking in on FourSquare, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter. They are so busy socializing online that they miss opportunities in real life right in front of them.
Everyone knows that it is rude and not considered proper social behavior and yet they can’t help themselves. It is just so addicting!
It shouldn’t be a surprise then to know that from time to time I cross paths with, or hear about, interpreters doing the same things while on assignment. Instead of focusing all their attention on interpreting they are distracted by something on the smartphone or iPad. The complaint is becoming more and more common, and sooner or later will result in some sort of unintentional mistaken outcome with a really big liability.
A distracted person behind the wheel of a car is still responsible for a fatal accident even if it was unintentional. Likewise interpreters cannot afford to be distracted.
We need to set clear guidelines for when and where we need to unplug and then stick to it. Here is a list of some of my pet peeves when it comes to being too connected. Please feel free to share some of yours with me and I will be happy to add them to my list.
1. Without a doubt, while on assignment, interpreters should be completely unplugged and focused on the job at hand.
2. It should go without saying, but driving distracted is so dangerous! Driving and texting or reading e-mail is a really bad idea, so why do so many people keep doing it?
3. Mealtime, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Come on folks, don’t our friends and family deserve a little better?
4. While worshiping, respect the sacred occasion and those around you please.
5. I really don’t need to hear the toilet flush while talking to you on the phone. Really, it’s a visual that doesn’t need to be there.