Mobile Etiquette Matters

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Mobile Etiquette

We must remember that mobile etiquette isn't an abstract concept. How and where we use our devices impacts others, including our family, friends and colleagues.

Deloitte discovered that one-third of smartphone owners in the United Kingdom look at their devices more than 25 times a day, and one-sixth check them more than 50 times a day. In addition, 80 percent of young people use their devices on public transportation, and 43 percent use them while eating at a restaurant.

It's safe to say that these figures wouldn't be much different in the United States.

The good news is that these devices put an enormous amount of information and entertainment within our reach. The bad news is that a lot of people aren't very good at managing these devices and behaving in a socially acceptable manner. They block escalator entrances, and talk too loud on subways and buses. They miss green lights when stopped at intersections, and they zone out at family holiday dinners. Let's not even get into texting while driving.

Yet, there's a growing consensus about what's acceptable and what isn't when it comes to the use of smartphones and other personal mobile devices. A recently released Pew Research Center study found that 77 percent of Americans believe it's acceptable to use smartphones while strolling down the street, and 75 percent think it's fine to use such a device while on public transit.

On the other hand, 94 percent said it's not okay to use a smartphone at a movie theater, 88 percent indicated that they do not approve of its use at the family dinner table, and 96 percent view the device as unacceptable at a place of worship.

However, the same Pew survey found that 89 percent admit to using their phone at a social gathering. This includes sending messages, receiving an incoming call, using an app, and checking a notification or alert.

Let's admit it, we've all been there and done that. The problem is that we think it's okay when we do it—everyone has his or her "but" or "because" excuse—but it's not okay when someone else does it.

How all of this will play out in the months and years ahead remains to be seen. But the growing level of obliviousness and obnoxiousness at which some people live their lives is truly astounding. What's more, the escalating level of disrespect in society is disturbing, to say the least.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that mobile etiquette isn't an abstract concept. How and where we use our devices directly impacts others around us, including our families, friends, colleagues and co-workers. We should all think before we reach for that mobile device.

This article was originally published on 2015-09-25
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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