This week I was invited to an adult education class. The tutor had to hang around at the main entrance to let all the students in, and as they arrived at the classroom in dribs and drabs I was struck by a certain lack of hospitality. I would happily have introduced myself and tried to make small-talk to break the ice, but everyone was too busy texting, playing games or looking something up on their mobiles. Their impoliteness was not confined to ignoring me, but ignoring each other as well. They must have met each other at the three previous lessons, but beyond a curt 'hello' on entering, they could each have been alone. There was no exchange of news, no chat about previous lessons or about the lesson ahead, or even about the weather. The social graces were totally lacking, even though they were all middle-aged and might be supposed to have had to survive without mobiles and computers in their formative years. Instead of connecting them, their smart phones allowed them to isolate themselves.
    Quite apart from the ramifications this might have for society (maybe there's an SF story here), this could have a drastic impact on writers. How can we learn how to write dialogue, or get a feel for teenage slang or local dialect if no one's actually talking to anyone? A great way to get inspiration for stories or characters has always been by listening to snatches of other people's conversations in caf├ęs or bus queues.
    Technology has done a lot to make life easier for writers, but this is one development I feel everyone could do without.