I suspect we have all had an occasion when we are with someone, maybe asking them a question or trying to have a conversation, but they are otherwise distracted. Distracted by a compact and capable piece of technology they have in their hand. We call it the smartphone.
The smartphone is a gateway to an exciting world. With so much information and content just a few taps away, it is very easy to become engrossed. Sometimes (lots of the time…), the detail holding our attention is really not that important at the time.
Is this rude?
This is a question a question that has no right or wrong answer in my opinion. It’s all about context. So what can we think about when considering ‘smartphone etiquette’?
Perhaps there are times and occasions where we can agree on ‘appropriate’ smartphone usage. That is not to say we shouldn’t ever use them at other ‘inappropriate’ times, but should our behaviours change?
New social cues and unwritten rules and are already evolving. Does a generational gap exist where different norms make physical communication harder when smartphones are present?
Socialising with people
When out for dinner with friends, family, colleagues or a loved one, do you really need your phone out? Perhaps it’s OK to snap a quick picture of the time spent together or check the time if you don’t wear a watch. You might need to dismiss a call, but should you really do anything more with your phone?
The time spent with these people is often important. Great memories can be built and shared which are all too easy to miss that if we’re watching the latest viral video.
Of course if you are getting a call from the babysitter then you might need to take that.
Hold that a moment
When someone hands you their phone to hold for a moment, do you look through it? Maybe they want you to take a picture, or sort something out on an app you know about and they don’t.
Do you ever think “Oh I wonder what they’ve got on here…” You could very quickly be in to their messages or photos. It might even be an almost automatic response to being given a phone; just load up the gallery and take a look…
Is that right? Would you want someone to do that to you? Perhaps you might find something you didn’t want to! Is this an invasion of privacy or more expected behaviour among some people?
Remember the event
I am as guilty as the next for taking quite a few photos and videos at special events. But is watching an event through the smartphone camera really the best thing?
Are you too worried about getting the best shot of the celebrity or band on stage to really appreciate the live audio and visuals that might be going on around you? Tickets to live shows can be expensive. Part of that cost is toward the live experience. The recording on your phone or tablet will always be a poor facsimile for the memory you could have stored in your head.
By all means take a few clips if you must (making friends mildly briefly envious can be amusing). Just don’t record half a show and remember, those minutes of footage will never compare to replaying the event in your head.
Instagram, Snapchat and other media sharing platforms are undoubtedly great. In truth many of us do like to see what is going on in other people’s lives.
However, after 50 photos of the stunning landscape in your recent holiday, is the 60th or 100th really necessary? Will you have any stories when you get home that you haven’t already shared before getting on the return flight?
A couple of photos of something special or out of the ordinary are great, but I am not sure how many people really wanted to see every food choice you made that day.
Unless you have several thousand followers and make a living from being a ‘lifestyle blogger’, I doubt many people care much about the avocado on toast you had for the fourth time this week.
And easy on the tagging. We all get more notifications than we like, so do you need to tag everyone in every photo?
Keep it short
Nobody really needs a 5 minute answer phone message. Keep it brief, getting to the point and giving key contact information. If it is important, most will call back.
Put it down
There are times – especially when driving – that you simply do not need to look at your phone.
Keep your eyes on the road and only look or handle a phone when parked or otherwise safe to do so. The statistics speak volumes and you don’t want to face the penalty.
Remember in the UK these penalties have just risen: £200 and 6 points. Newly passed drivers will lose their license if caught in the first two years.
Help yourself avoid distraction
Many devices have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ function. You can enable this to block unwanted calls and notifications at any time. Take advantage of it more often than you do. This will allow only the essential to come through.
If your phone does not have this, or you want something more comprehensive, then consider apps like OFFTIME. This will allow you to block a few more of the distractions at times when you want to be focused on other things.
All things said, different people with have different opinions, based on their age, circumstances, social circles, passions and importance they place on the smartphone and contributing factors.
Consider your surroundings when you have an urge or impulse to tweet, share or reply to a message. Can it wait? Is it really necessary? Would you like someone else to do it in this situation?
Is smartphone etiquette something we need to address openly with each other? Or will it develop naturally? Perhaps it already is.
What are your opinions on this?