Social etiquette is becoming murkier everyday. Half of all adult Americans now own either a smartphone or tablet, and one-third use their mobile devices to view news stories and video clips at least weekly. –Half of U.S. adults own a smartphone or tablet, 2012 Pew survey Everybody’s on the phone. But they’re not just talking on the phone.
Instead of reiterating the obvious, I will dive into the implications for IRL interactions.
Cultural mores dictate certain things you shouldn’t do because they’re rude. And usually there are exceptions to these rules. Common sense used to suffice in this realm. Mobile technology has introduced a host of new implicit rules and exceptions, not to mention the generational divide over what’s considered rude. The key is whether the other person knows you have an exception (assuming they care or loosely adhere to the following). Common scenarios:
|Bad Tech Behavior||Exception||Caveat/Details|
|Texting during a meal/date/outing||Texting a friend who is on the way/lost/running late. Instagram can be fine if the other person gets it or joins in Instagramming the fire hydrant or heart-shaped coffee froth.||Mention to present company that the other party is the person you’re texting. Generally, just give your undivided attention to the other person.|
|Using your phone while watching/listening to a presentation or speech||Taking notes; taking a non-flash photo of the speaker/event; tweeting about the presentation||Even if you’re just notetaking on your phone (and do use Evernote), it would look better to use a tablet, seemingly more public and when so, associated with single tasks like notetaking, whereas a phone screen is smaller, thus less conducive to notetaking and more private. Phone is better at hiding your potential bad tech behaviors. Ongoing tweeting is acceptable if the presentation is meant to be live tweeted- definitely if the event has a hashtag. But try and look up.|
|Texting, web search, or checking Facebook while on a date||Showing something on Facebook that is relevant to the conversation. Googling/texting a mutual burning question to an authority.||If you want to get away with any of these behaviors undetected, do not post anything. The person may now be or may end up your Facebook friend. A simple calendar check would let them put two and two together: you were multitasking them, as in digitally double-booking them.
|Forgetting to turn your phone on silent or vibrate in the movies or at a meeting||Movie theatre: no exception. Meeting: Vibrate is acceptable if expecting an important call or email but only if the phone is in your lap, pocket, or purse — not on the table.||In a meeting where others are aware (and better yet, mutually affected by the outcome) of your expected call or email or text, vibrate mode on the table is fine.|
I don’t want to be always on. I want to be in the moment even when the moment is paused for a bathroom break. It’s part of the bigger picture: we need to silence our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Multitasking is addictive because it produces dopamine. We instinctually want to multitask because the big DA is a powerful reward-based neurotransmitter. It’s what makes cocaine and methamphetamines such fun. We bathe in dopamine for that neurological reward and in order to supposedly maximize our experience of all the available technology. But digital stress on the brain from multitasking makes us perform worse. We really can’t handle more than two tasks at once. We really should focus on the main task at hand: each other.