Irritated by people not giving activities their full attention

I have a friend who often wants to meet for what will normally end up being turn-based games. Recently he has developed a habit of bringing his laptop along and “working” in between his turns. In the same way, if I’m supposed to be doing something with my brother he’ll normally spend half his time on his phone chatting with his girlfriend. Both have an “it doesn’t matter” attitude to this - they’re present, they’re doing their parts, etc. This is starting to really irritate me, and it takes a lot of the fun away. I feel that if they want to do something with me they should either commit to it or not bother, but I can’t justify this irritation. I try to justify my positions if possible, and re-evaluate if not, but justification here is eluding me and yet I don’t feel I’m wrong. To some extent I disagree with the “doing their part” bit, because in my experience a person multitasking overestimates their ability to do so effectively. But that’s not a good enough reason on its own, and it’s very debatable - the “guilty” parties would simply argue they are in fact doing what they’re “supposed” to be doing and I’m not interested in trying to prove they’re only half there.

So the question is, am I wrong? Perhaps I’m simply trying to exert control or demand attention. Or if you feel the same way in similar situations, what’s your own reasoning?

Huh? What did you say?

I think I’d be similarly bothered, and it’s because they aren’t really doing their parts. The turn-based games surely are at least partly an excuse to spend time together, and enjoy each other in other ways too, such as having a conversation that goes on throughout many turns.

This is an example of a difference between visiting and being housemates. People who happen to live together have a need to move throughout the space around one another but not necessarily interact; visiting, though, is for interacting.

I think phones and other connectivity means have stolen a sort of civility from us through little differences like this.

Maybe try something other than turn based games? I find they make for odd social rhythms, as the conversation is disrupted with periods where one person is focused and the other has nothing to do.

I treated a young friend to lunch the other day and about midway through the meal suspected that she was texting under the table! When I asked her if that was what she was doing she had to excuse herself to go to the restroom.

In my world this is nothing short of rude. However in a young person’s world this seems to be acceptable. I’ve seen groups of people sitting together all absorbed in their own private cybernetic dream.

When I spend time with someone I consider my full attention a gift reserved for the most important people in my life.

For me it depends on how long a turn is. If we’re talking a minute or two, I’d question how much “work” can really be done in that timeframe.

If we’re talking 5 minutes or more, you bet your ass I’m doing something in between. Sitting and watching someone think is no damn fun.

No, you’re right, and the justification is this: if all you wanted was someone to move the opposing game pieces for you, you could just play against your phone. Their “part” is not just to be present and perform the required tasks, but to interact with you and share experiences with you. I know someone who’s like this in the extreme. If we invite her anywhere - a restaurant, a movie, a walk in the park - she shows up, eats/watches/walks/etc., and leaves. Once, I invited her to Thanksgiving, and she declined, adding, “…but you can bring me the leftovers.” Thanks, dearest, but my goal was not to serve you food. My goal was to spend time with you, have a conversation, enjoy your company, and hopefully, have you enjoy mine. I’ve told her this, in exactly those words, and she still doesn’t really get it. I think what it really comes down to is that she doesn’t get much out of interacting with people, and so doesn’t see that she’s not really holding up her end of the social contract. Maybe your friend and brother are the same way? In any case, the solution is simple: you can tell them that you’d prefer to have their undivided attention, and that if they’re busy with something else, you’ll just leave and see them some other time.

This is a tough one. I love playing Scrabble but there’s nothing worse than playing with someone who takes forever to take their turn. It is so goddamn boring I want to die.

At the same time, if my friends sat there with their phones and laptops while waiting for me, I’d be pissed, too. It’s like instead of treating the game and our time socializing together as the focus of the evening, the game and socializing is an interruption to their real focus on their phones and laptops. You feel slighted.

The only solution is to play faster.

Gee, thanks Tethered Kite - but does it come in a smaller size? :smiley:


If this is the problem, you might try a co-operative play game like Pandemic. It involves the same kind of strategy as a typical board game or RPG, but all the players are working toward a common goal, and each player’s moves benefit from everyone’s input.

I think you are just choosing the wrong games to play with your friend. Try knife fighting. That should heighten their attention.

I like the idea of knife-fighting. It sounds a lot more fun.

Some of the games are the kind where you’re doing something for the whole turn, rather than just thinking before moving, so part of the fun of playing the game together is watching what the other person does and reacting in some way to the results of their fortune or skill. I’m not really looking for alternatives so much as an argument that either helps me articulate the point (I’ve tried and failed with other people) or persuades me that it’s my own expectations that are wrong. When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me not to read at dinnertime but was never very persuasive when trying to explain why he didn’t like it, so I know how eye-roll-worthy those criticisms can sound, and how easy it is to make them sound absurd.

It’s just modern life and the way it shortens people’s attention span. Many people now become uncomfortable if they have to spend even a few minutes without an external focus of attention.

I was with someone a few days ago and my phone rang. I ignored it and continued our conversation. She asked, “Aren’t you going to answer that?” When I replied, “No we are talking,” she looked at me as though I was insane.

Most board games involve thinking on the other person’s clock. In chess, for example, you don’t know what move the other person is going to make, but you can usually narrow it down to a relatively small number of choices, and while they are deciding, you’re thinking “if they do this, I’ll do that.” If you aren’t doing that, you’re not taking the game seriously.

For me, personally, there is no fun in playing a game–any game–against somebody who isn’t taking it seriously. If you win, so what? You cared and they didn’t. So I would never play a game against someone who took out a laptop between turns. They may still be moving the pieces, but they aren’t taking the game seriously and aren’t providing a challenging and satisfying opponent.

I used to have a friend who is really into online games. She would invite me over and then spend the evening gaming. I only tolerated it because it was more entertaining than what I had going on at home. But it was odd. And rude.

see if he is really paying attention. do some cheating move and see if you get caught.

if caught say just testing his attention.

Your argument is fundamentally valid, but the highlighted phrase struck me as the most broken thing I’ve ever heard.

It’s a game. Per definitionem, it’s not serious. If it’s serious, it’s not a game.

“Serious” is reserved for Shit That Matters.

Most certainly. Hope to size you up real quick. :smiley:

I don’t think anybody would want to play games with somebody who has this attitude, laptops or no laptops. The unspoken rules say that you play by the rules and try to win or in other words take the game seriously enough that you aren’t just wasting other people’s time - it’s not so much the game being important, it’s the other people you are doing it with and their time they’ve chosen to spend on the game and being with you.

You could say “oh, don’t take it so seriously” for almost anything people do together. To me something like that is just a smug excuse, a rude and condescending way to declare that whatever “Shit That Matters” you got going on is far more important than this.

Very much agree. And…heh! I’m a fast Scrabble player. I study the board while others are taking their turns, and usually have several possible plays ready.

I’m “Quick Claude.” I gotta do everything fast.

(I once scarfed a Marathon Bar, just to prove it could be done. It hurt, but it was worth it.)

And, yes, people who go and do other stuff are not showing proper game etiquette. (There are legitimate exceptions: going to the bathroom and going to the kitchen are the most notable.)