Giving Them the Thumbs

So I was at the dentist’s office this morning and the dental hygienist asked me what I did for a living as one customarily does to make small talk. I was a teacher and graduate student I replied. She asked what I was studying. I told her that I was working on a PhD in a program titled Texts & Technology. This usually elicits a slight pause of unfamiliarity, so I quickly glossed the program by explaining that it explores the intersections of technology and culture. Usually this works just fine and typically intrigues people. What it doesn’t usually trigger, as it did this morning, is a soap-box rant. It was a polite and subdued rant, but a rant no less. I do believe the phrase “these kids” was used at some point.

My dental hygienist proceeded to inform me that she did not own a cell phone and was mildly disgusted by public texting, particularly texting while driving and while having x-rays (not sure if there was an implied correlation between those two).

Most of all, she was dismayed by the readiness to disregard personal presence inherent in the act of texting while ostensibly interacting with another. This is by now a commonplace complaint, and while no less valid for being so, not by itself worthy of comment. It was how she described the offense and captured its feel that caught my attention. While miming the standard tw0-handed, thumbs twirling texting gesture with a slight thrust of both hands in my direction, she declared that it is as if she were being given the finger.

Well, they’re thumbs technically, but point taken.

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