'Phubbing' - rude or just modern life?

PHUBBING: Three young people out for dinner together.
PHUBBING: Three young people out for dinner together.

As a regular on-the-go user of social media, its immediacy and informality is undeniably enjoyable.

I like to dip in and out of it, principally for work-related activity.

But I could never imagine becoming a slave to it.

Nor do I understand why for many people, every murmur, every muse, every heartbeat and every burble of their day, needs to be splayed on Facebook and shared with the Twitterverse.

Maybe it's because I'm 42 - way too old to be a Millennial.

The average 18 to 30-year-old is apparently hyper-social, constantly connected and craves share-worthy content.

The great irony about Millennial behaviour is that, in many respects, a binge-diet of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Tinder, Foursquare, Vine and Mobli disconnects them from the real and tactile world, in favour of the virtual, ephemeral and vicarious.

Have you noticed how Millennial tourists are more likely to see a city's main sights through the lens of their phone camera, than their own eyes?

In Hong Kong last week, every time I entered a metro station, it was like navigating through a human stew of narcissistic Helen Kellers.

Thousands of fellow commuters thronged the concourses, deaf, blind and oblivious to anyone who crossed paths with them, as they frenetically swiped on their smartphones.

Dodging the phone freaks in Westfield Riccarton is bad enough now - God help us when Google Glass becomes the norm.

And don't you just loathe those techno-show offs who swagger about flaunting their Bluetooth earphones, conducting shouty-loud conversations, living out their mission-controller fantasies?

Where's this all heading? I'm in Europe for work and am now acquainted with "phubbing".

It's the act of phone snubbing someone in your presence, while you talk, tweet, text or web surf on your mobile phone. In Britain, a collective public cheer was raised to an unnamed Sainsbury's supermarket check-out assistant, who refused to serve a customer until she stopped faffing about on her phone.

The shopper ran to the tabloids claiming she'd been humiliated. Sainsbury's issued an apology (and some vouchers), but the rebuked check-out assistant was hailed a household heroine.

Across the UK and Europe, the fight back against "phubbing" is on fire. In tweet-speak, it is trending - particularly in retail and hospitality. The "Stop Phubbing" website provides printable posters aimed at shaming phubbers into submission. One reads: "While you finish updating your status, we'll gladly serve the polite person behind you."

I hope the turning tide against the tech-obsessed washes our shores. We could do with a dose of rebalancing.

The Press