We’ve all experienced it, and most of us have probably done it:
You’re talking with someone in a social or business situation and a cell phone rings. Maybe it’s your phone; maybe it’s the other person’s. Either way, the previous conversation ends abruptly, because in the modern communications hierarchy the outside phone call or text message generally takes priority over mere face-to-face, human-to-human interaction.
Sure, it’s rude. But most people do it anyway, sometimes with a quick word of apology to the ignored party, but often not. And while some may not find the practice socially acceptable, the battle against it is quickly being lost.
It is, in other words, an increasingly common aspect of modern life. But as far as I can determine, we have invented no term for it. And to tame it, we must name it.
That claim might sound odd to some, but for millenia experts in the human psyche have understood the power of naming. Once given a name, any danger somehow becomes less frightening. Once something is named, our brains can begin to plot to bring it under control.
It is no accident that in the book of Genesis, the animals are brought to Adam one by one so that he can name them, and by doing so establish dominance over them. In some sects, the fact that Adam was granted the right to name Eve is still cited as evidence that God intended man to be superior to woman.
Conversely, in the Jewish tradition the name of G-d can neither be uttered nor written, because He cannot and should not be captured in a word.
So, back to the original question: What do we call this phenomenon? We can’t develop social norms for something that we can’t even name. The phrase used above, “technological capture,” might be descriptive but it is also bulky and awkward. I don’t think it’s going to catch on.
Therefore, I propose the problem be “crowdsourced,” itself a new phenomenon that could not be understood until it was named. Suggest a term and throw it out, to see what catches on. Earn a little bit of immortality by making a contribution to the English language.
My own lame proposal is to call it an “e-ruption,” with the verb form “e-rupt”. As in, “it’s rude to e-rupt a conversation.” Or “don’t e-rupt me, bro.” Or “the conversation was so boring that I had to fake an e-ruption to escape.”
– Jay Bookman