UDivided loyalty is a term that the German-American sociologist Lewis Alfred Coser has introduced to describe the comprehensive claim that some groups make to their members. Above all, simple and undifferentiated communities are jealous that all their relatives are guided by their own ideas of good and evil. Therefore, contacts to non-group members, which could unsettle the group member, are prevented as far as possible.
But even more intense twosome relationships with other group members should not be allowed under these circumstances, according to Lewis Coser. In the couple who wants to secede, the others see only a presumption of the group, and as punishment for the two then monitored at every turn. Positive vocabulary for love or friendship may also exist in such a closed society. But they mean then a socially inclusive attitude that should exist to actually all group members. Who wants to exclude others, is easily suspected of being a traitor.
Only undivided is polite
In the earliest societies, one does not have to look far for examples of such possessive thinking. Many tribal societies were already, as Coser would call it, “greedy institutions”. They feared the possible enemy in the stranger – and within the familiar the potential allies for forming opinions against group ideology. In modern society, on the other hand, only the political or religious sects seem to be disposed to this kind of collective jealousy. The cult leaders then preach, for example, that free love merits preference over the relationship, because they want to prevent too close ties with certain people.
In a recently published study, concepts for undivided attention are now appearing in quite unusual places. Namely they should designate expectations of interlocutors. This is initially surprising and then convincing. It is surprising because you can live in one and only one group, but not in one and only one conversation. All participants in the conversation have to deal with other presently absent persons before and after. And all those present know each other and show understanding of each other – for example, if one of them has to leave prematurely because they are waiting for him elsewhere.
Convincing is the predicate “undivided”, if you limit it to the duration of the meeting itself. Then you see immediately that even conversations are “greedy institutions”. Messages that try to exclude other participants are undesirable: Who whispers, it is then said that lies. And accordingly, all contacts to group strangers, and that means here to absent ones, are clearly disapproved. Even the repeated side glance to the restaurant guest at the next table or the noticeable distraction by the television broadcast of a football game in the other corner of the pub are considered rude. Those who are interested in those who are not present, must either immediately make them an issue, that is, start talking about them, or they will be unpleasant.
Mobile phones are solo entertainers
The subject of the investigation is the shaking of this small social order by the today usual use of the smartphone: one uses a short break or the temporary absence of the interlocutor, in order to pull the own device, and is then then once with it – thus concerned with absent ones. In this way you show the partner that you find others more attractive than him. This may happen with his previously obtained permission, but at the latest when this attention to absentees before uninvolved spectators happens, it makes status differences recognizable: While the one has to wait without complaint, because he had agreed, the other may safely wait.
The field studies in the cafeteria of his university, which was carried out by the author, but also the student-occupied discussion groups, in which he tried to verify the impression thus obtained, should clarify the question of how the addressees of this imposition react to them. Of course, there are different ways of reacting, but the very one that occurs immediately affects the sense of a deviation enhancement that magnifies the problem of alienation rather than solving it. In order not to have to look like ordered and not picked up, many waiters turn to their own device and demonstrate by eager typing that they also have a rich network of contacts. So if you see two people who seem to be dealing with their own devices in apparent harmony, they should not trust this harmonic impression: Maybe they are dealing with a reckless and a frustrated person.