It's no secret I've never been a huge fan of texting despite being a technology journalist. That's because texting has replaced most forms of face-to-face communication. Worst of all, it's now become a shield for people to say things to others they would never dare say in person.
Want to lie and call in sick without having to talk to your boss? Text him or her. Want to break up with your girlfriend? Text her.
Now, the owner of an Italian restaurant has taken texting to a whole new level of gutlessness. He sent a text to all of his workers that they no longer had a job.
According to the Associated Press, the owner of Barducci's Italian Bistro in Winter Park, Fla., sent a text to more than a dozen of his employees during the Fourth of July week indicating he would be closing his restaurant for good.
"I have been forced to close Barducci's effective immediately," he texted them without prior notice.
And with that, he became a nominee for Coward of the Year.
It's rotten enough getting fired or laid off, but to get the notice via a text instead of a personal sit down makes it that much more demoralizing.
Yes, it would have been more difficult to sit down with each employee or with the whole group of workers at once to tell them in person that they lost their jobs. But it would have been the decent thing to do, and personally delivering the news would have expressed his sincerity. Instead, he took the easy way out, fired all of his workers with a few taps on his phone, and he never had to see the anguish on their faces.
In some situations, texting has replaced courage. It's become a barrier for some to protect themselves from confrontation. Sure, texting is convenient when you tell your kid what time you're picking her up or where to meet your friends for coffee. But texting is taking over the art of conversation, even between families in the same house. Is it becoming the standard for delivering bad news, too?
I had complained before in this column about my oldest daughter's obsession with texting when she received her first mobile phone. I even created a "Ten Commandments of Texting" for both of my kids when they received their first phones to help curb the practice. The list included such rules as no texting at the dinner table or while at a restaurant with the family.
Since then, my oldest child has calmed down a lot and respected those rules most of the time (with occasional prodding by me).
But now I need to include a new commandment to that list: "Thou shalt not text news that is better delivered in person."
Texting, Facebook, chat rooms, comment boards and other social networks have thrown out the rules of proper conduct. I have one friend whom I occasionally go to lunch with who spends much of the time pulling out his phone to text or read his Facebook page. It makes me want to slap his iPhone right out of his hand. I once chastised a relative for texting the news that he and his wife were having a baby instead of calling us. I'll bet the restaurant owner who fired his staff via a text didn't even think that what he was doing was inappropriate.
In a year, we'll also have to worry about Google Glass, those imposing electronic glasses that divert the attention of its wearers so much, people who already have them have been dubbed "Glassholes." And then there will be the rumored iWatch, Apple's answer to wearable computing that no doubt will have users always looking down at their wrists instead of paying attention to whom they're talking to.
While there is plenty to appreciate about how mobile technology has improved our lives, we also need to think about how it's changing our behavior for the worse. Our path to better technology shouldn't block our path to becoming better human beings.
If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.