Mobile Rudeness & Device Etiquette

Have you ever been the victim of mobile rudeness?

Recently, I was talking about an extremely difficult personal situation with someone face to face. When I turned around for no more than 3 seconds to handle something I thought the person was still present and listening but when I went to meet their eyes again I saw they were looking down at their iPhone. Even as I spoke they continued to stare at the glowing screen. I stopped talking, turned around briefly and then turned my head back again to see if they had stopped checking their phone. No. They weren’t even aware that the conversation had been interrupted. This isn’t the first time I have seen this behaviour, it is quite common. I often see people trying to speak to each other while another person is scanning their phone or texting. In my opinion it is both rude and wrong.

There are times to use mobile devices and times not to use them. Let’s talk about etiquette.

Have you ever been in a social setting with a group of friends and nobody can remember a certain fact about a song or a movie? So thanks to the handy iPhone or iPad someone says “I can look that up” and everyone agrees, “Yes, do that.” In that case it is part of the social interaction and is not detracting from the agreement that we are all equally involved. However, if in the course of a conversation with one or more persons someone takes it upon themselves to check out something that has nothing to do with the conversation or simply assumes it’s OK to tend to their phone, are they not sending a message to others of their disinterest?

If you are dining and a person lets you know “I have an urgent call that can’t be missed” then you are prepared for an interruption. However, if a person takes calls throughout your dining experience or is texting, do you think they are being rude? I think so. Ostensibly, the person who checked out the phone made it clear to his/her companion (s) that they are not as important as what is on his/her phone. The phone user has arbitrarily excluded present company and temporarily shut down communication.

Device etiquette is also expected in my classrooms. When I have taught workshops I’m clear about the parameters of use for all devices. Nobody is to be texting or web searching during our time together. If somebody is expecting a call from an employer or is to be available for emergencies then place phone on vibrate but other than that etiquette dictates full attention on facilitator and fellow students. To me, this is about courtesy and awareness which is sadly falling away from our dealing with others.

phone rudenessTechnology has come so far that it isn’t just a phone ringing in the middle of moments but there is the ability to check out websites, text, play music, download apps, scroll through pages of a book and so much more. The problem is while someone is doing any one of those things it is impossible to still be fully present in conversation or aware of surroundings. You can’t be actively listening and reading at the same time. You also fail to recognize the subtle nuances that make up interactions with others such as speech or other forms of expression that may be important to follow. There are times to be using devices and times for them to be put away and I believe there are far too many acts with an iPhone and other devices that sabotage communication rather than enhance it.

We all need to set the rules of how we wish to be treated. We also should be open to maintaining social behaviours that if nothing else are just polite. If I say to you, “Please don’t use that phone at the table” what I’m really saying is “I value our time together and I would appreciate it if you would do the same.” If I say to you, “Please don’t use that device while I’m speaking” what I’m really saying is ” I value our relationship, your counsel, your opinion or your willingness to listen and I would appreciate it if you would honor that and me.”

Awareness can only be obtained and etiquette applied if you are respectfully present. Imagine for a moment this is the last conversation you were going to have with the person in front of you. What would be more important… web searching, texting or giving your undivided attention to that person?

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