Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Digital Etiquette

As you know if you've been reading this blog for very long, one of my pet peeves is people who carry on loud (and often highly personal, inappropriate, and/or vulgar) conversations in public on their cell phones. I really don't need to know the details of your love life, your arguments with your spouse, or what you need to pick up from the store on the way home.

But the convenience and ubiquity of personal electronic devices has led to other issues of etiquette and safety as well. How many times have you been in the theater or at a concert when some clownhead's phone rang, disturbing the performance? And why do we have to pass laws (see yesterday's post) telling morons not to text while they drive?

Here is a short, timely article by Elizabeth Ann Winters (author of The Official Book of Electronic Etiquette) that applies: Five Electronic Tips at the Holiday Table. It's a shame that such a list is needed, but here it is ... with my editorial comments, of course.

1. Turn off the television. Background music is fine, movies and football games are not. Agnes and I often enjoy dinner while watching a movie or a favorite show, but things are a bit different if you have guests. Chances are, you can live without the TV for a while.

2. Mute your phone. 'Nuff said. If you can't bear to turn it off, at least set it to vibrate rather than ring. And, for pete's sake, don't lay your phone on the table next to your plate. The people at the table are the ones you should be concentrating on. Unless you're waiting for a personal call from the President, you can put the phone away for an hour.

3. Roll to voicemail or step outside. Unless you are a doctor or someone else who must be in constant contact in case of emergencies, let your voicemail take the calls. And if you absolutely have to take the call, excuse yourself and go someplace where the rest of us don't have to listen to your conversation.

4. Put the games away. You're supposed to be eating. If you can't bear to be separated from your electronic games for the length of a meal, you have larger problems than possibly spilling gravy on your expensive Game Boy.

5. Picture perfect. Yes, your phone has a built-in camera. No, you don't need to use it to take unflattering photos of your guests while they eat. Pose a few pictures before everyone digs in if you must, but resist the urge to take them during the meal.

It's hard to believe, but you can survive for an hour without electronic stimulation. There was a time, not so long ago, when we had something called conversation - interpersonal communication conducted face-to-face. Maybe it's time to bring it back, along with simple good manners and consideration of others.

The holiday season seems like a good time to start.

Have a good day. Put the phone away. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

It wasn't intentional but we seem to have setup our house so that the top floor is electronic and the bottom floor isn't (apart from the phone). The TV and computers are all upstairs. Downstairs is where we have the kitchen and where we spend most of the time with the kids and very often, there isn't even a cellphone in the area. This way, when I'm with the kids, I can focus completely on them.

John A Hill said...

Sounds like a good plan, Amanda.

Bilbo, idk, maybe ur 2 tense.

wv: qualint...the really good stuff caught in the dryer screen.

Mike said...

I told myself to stay away from the computer all day today.

KathyA said...

A friend of mine reported that someone at her bookclub texts the whole time they meet! I'd be so angry if someone did that in my home. Amazingly, no one says anything to her about it!

I've taken to staring directly at people who are talking on a phone in restaurants. Some of them get the message.