Devices and etiquette in social situations: are you practising what you preach?

When it comes to our devices and etiquette, and deciding what is appropriate for social situations, we all seem to have a view. Are we practising what we preach, or at least what we think?

Waiting in line at the supermarket, standing at the bus stop, travelling on a train, it is certainly the norm to see people with a device in hand, scrolling their social networking feeds, answering emails or watching a downloaded TV series. We are probably fairly resigned to the fact that this is the norm and will continue to be. Some people lament the lack of communication and eye contact taking place between strangers. Others believe they may in fact be connecting even more with people via these ‘hyper connected’ social networks.

Whatever you believe, the fact remains that these gadgets have well and truly become an extension of our being. It seems however, there should still be some lines drawn when it comes to devices and social etiquette. There remains situations where we need to put the devices away. Those times where we want our kids to know the value of face to face interactions, of real life connections and of taking the time to live in the moment, be aware of our surroundings and learn to let go a little.

When we are at the dinner table, at a social function with friends or family, walking down the street, playing with our kids. These are some of the times I think we need to keep sacred.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Centre in America found that phone use in social situations is seen to have a negative effect on the experience for both those using the device as well as those in their company. Nothing ground breaking there, but I guess the most telling statistic is that whilst most people recognised the negative impact of using a device at social gatherings, still 89% of people admitted to doing it. I imagine there are a lot of these same people rousing on their kids for being stuck on their phones all day.

Statistics from Pew Research American Trends Panel survey, May – June 2014

It seems the majority of people are ok with trains, in queues or waiting for public transport, but we become rather more discerning when it comes to restaurants, family gatherings, meetings, at the theatre or at church. I would say that is pretty similar to how I view it too.

I admit for me however, it doesn’t always look how I want it to look. I don’t always espouse the behaviours I want to see in my kids. But being conscious of it certainly goes a long way to being more aware and stopping myself when I see myself slipping in to bad habits.

I think having a few simple rules for ourselves really helps too. We have a definite no devices at the dinner table rule. We also provide lots of opportunity to do things as a family, to get outside and play, where devices are not needed. Building on that culture of balanced play is a really important way of developing good device etiquette.

How about you? Could you look at making some changes to the way you use your phone or device? Does it upset you seeing others use their devices in social situations? What are your limits?

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Wendy from Beachstylemum

    I totally agree about the dinner table and social gatherings with family and friends being sacred. I have been known to check Instagram while walking down the street – eek. When I’m home all day with my kids I try to resist the urge to check my device too often. I tryyyyy to allocate a few 10 min blocks throughout the day when they are busy playing by themselves. It’s tricky!! Thank you for the reminder

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      I think having times of the day to check on things when they are playing is fine. I try to do it too when they are not looking or when they are busy, but of course I am not perfect at it and my kids have been known to tug on my sleeve whilst I’m sending an email!

  2. Vanessa

    I’m not social at the best of times, and have been known (in pre-smartphone days) to take books to BBQs because I simply don’t want to be social or don’t like the people we were going to go see. For me, I may use a smartphone now but the way I interact with people hasn’t changed.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Vanessa, thats a really interesting point and something I hadn’t really thought about. I guess it can be useful for those times you don’t want to communicate or are not comfortable connecting with those around you.

  3. Renee Wilson

    Great post, Martine. I’m guilty of looking at my phone while I’m on public transport and walking down the street. What I really don’t like is people on their phone in meetings, even if they’re checking work emails. It seems rude to me. #teamIBOT

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes I agree Renee, meetings can seem rude. I think public transport is OK and walking down the street is probably more of a safety issue than anything!

  4. EssentiallyJess

    This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately; I don’t want to automatically reach for my phone every time we have to wait for something. I don’t think that’s teaching the kids anything.
    As for church, I use my phone there all the time, but that’s because I take notes and use the Bible App. 🙂

  5. Anna : Colour me Anna

    I’m definitely guilty of using my phone too much but we’ve tried {tried!} to put our phones away between 7am-9am and 5pm-8pm. I think you stay in a state of overwhelm because you are multitasking yourself to confusion. Better to do one thing at a time I say.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yep, wow no phones between 5pm and 8pm is pretty impressive:)

  6. Amy @ HandbagMafia

    Oh yes, guilty of looking during social things, or stopping to instagram something. My circle all doing it, though- so I guess it’s socially acceptable to us but definitely something to be mindful of with others!

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes I think being wary of your social circles is really important.:)

  7. Deborah

    I used to chuckle when I lived in the city and would be waiting for a bus / train and EVERYONE at the stop would be playing with their phones. I guess those kinds of situations are okay but every so often I wouldn’t listen to music or play on my phone on my commute, I’d just look outside – JUST to show myself I still could!

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Oh yes, it is certainly a good idea to test ourselves sometimes!

  8. I must admit I use my phone in a queue and on public transport but not so much walking down the street as there is no guarantee of an accident. My pet hate is when I see people ordering their morning coffee and rudely refuse to get off their phone to do it. A simple ‘hang on’ to the person on the phone, move the phone away from your ear and ask politely for a coffee is pretty simple I think.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes I agree I think we need to be more mindful of people who are serving us, its common decency really which we cant afford to lose.

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