Everywhere I look in New York City I see people staring into their SmartPhones. Whether they are holding an iPhone or an Android, the physical act is the same: One hand grips the softly glowing object, while the other strokes and pokes it in endless combinations, as the phone’s user stares intently down at the little screen.
Since this is Manhattan, these people remain vaguely aware of the need to function as pedestrians, more or less. They shuffle along, trying to progress down the street with one eye on oncoming human traffic, for the most part managing not to barge into other folks.
I think a new sort of protocol is developing around these half-present entities. Other people understand that they have a sort of disability, while they themselves expect to be treated with the deference that one shows the disabled.
But of course, these being politically correct times, we must not call these people disabled. For then they will become discouraged, and will lose self-esteem. Instead of pointing out that they are psychologically absent, rather we must say that they are “differently present”.
On some level they themselves understand this. If you attempt to treat a mobile texter/tweeter as a fully abled person — say, by expecting them to not simply walk head-on into oncoming pedestrian traffic — they tend to look at you with a kind of distractedly annoyed expression. “Can’t you see,” the look seems to say, “that I am not completely here? Have you no respect for the differently present?”