Smartphone Etiquette: 10 Tips for Mindful Use

This is not a blog on your rights. You have a right to be oblivious to your surroundings and a right to be obnoxious. That includes your right to obnoxiously use your smartphone the same way you obnoxiously do anything else. This is a piece on etiquette.
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Neilsen research reports 65 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, a number that continues to grow. How we communicate with each other is evolving rapidly, and the experience of simply being with someone and being around each other is changing. How these changes are affecting our world is a topic worthy of exploration, but it will not be explored here. What we will be highlighting is the correlation between the explosive smartphone growth and the explosive increase in people using their smartphones like total knobs. Ten suggestions will be offered to improve your life and limit your time in the knob category.

A few disclaimers before we begin.

This is not a blog on your rights. You have a right to be oblivious to your surroundings and a right to be obnoxious. That includes your right to obnoxiously use your smartphone the same way you obnoxiously do anything else. This is a piece on etiquette. Updating an outdated cellphone etiquette code in hopes of encouraging polite behavior amongst the growing demographic of smartphone owners. I won't be taking shots at your military grade protective phone case, criticizing your unnecessary "Sent from my iPhone" signature, or tackling your inappropriate use of emoticons. I will stay focused on the important stuff: respect for the people around you and good old-fashioned manners. I'll also be using personal pronouns and the sweeping generalization that what I find annoying so does the rest of the world.

"A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot." -- Robert A. Heinlein

Use "Do Not Disturb" Instead of Vibrate -- Loud vibrations in your pants are disturbing. We can hear your phone vibrate and sometimes, depending on the intensity of your vibrato, can feel it go off. It is very difficult to ignore and distracts us from whatever we are doing -- much like the squirrel in the video below.

Take the Phone Off the Table -- All our phones look alike. When yours flashes it distracts us, not only because a robot is flashing on the dinner table, but also because it reminds us we have a phone and stuff might be happening on our phone, too. It kills the person-to-person interaction happening between us.

Tell Us What You're Doing -- Sometimes, you will be in a situation where you need to use your smartphone. That's okay, just tell us what you're doing and why you are doing it. If you don't, we will assume the worst. You're either interacting with someone else or find us so boring you've turned to video games. Here are a few sample sentences to help you get the idea. "I'm going to Yelp a few restaurants nearby and get us driving directions," or "I'm going to share this moment with my friend back home," or "I'm expecting a call from my partner."

Don't Use Your Phone When You Are Bored -- You look like a zombie when you do, and it makes us all feel sad. A bit of boredom in your life is a good thing. It is a place in your day for reflection, creativity, and spontaneity. Embrace your boredom with a smile and resist the impulse to fill it with something mindless. Who knows what you will come up with.

Texting and Anything -- If you are still texting and driving, that is not rude behavior, that is insane behavior (please don't be insane; now back to etiquette). We are talking about texting and anything else -- biking, walking, talking, ordering, eating, drinking... Texting is not like chewing gum. It's terribly rude to multitask. Plus, trust us: You're bad at it. If you are texting that is all that you should be doing.

Disable Text Preview on Home Screen -- Respect our privacy as text and email senders by not letting what we type scroll across the home screen of your device. While you're at it, use a passcode to ensure our information we share with you stays between us.

Ask Permission to Swipe -- When we hand you our phone to look at a photo this is not carte blanche to swipe through our entire photo album. We want you to see the one photo we hand to you, not necessarily every photo we have taken this week.

Stop Documenting Everything -- For many things, your attempt to capture the moment will limit our ability to enjoy the moment. This especially goes for food photography and excessive concert videography. Whether we're sitting across from you or standing behind you, you're killing our vibe. Be mindful when you whip out the camera and understand why you're using it.

Turn Down Your Headphones -- If you're thinking "exsqueeze me, turn down for what?" A friendly reminder this is an article on etiquette and not your rights. We can hear your music in close quarters, and it's disruptive. Plus, we can only kind of hear it, which prevents any accidental widespread enjoyment of your playlist. Maybe even consider occasionally taking the headphones out. There are people all around you and we may want to communicate.

Unplug for Short Periods -- It's becoming well known that taking an extended break from technology is great for your wellbeing, but you don't need to plan a weekend in the wilderness to get off the grid. Take short tech breaks everyday. Heading out to dinner? Leave the phone at home so you're not tempted to check your email and interrupt our conversation. Tell us beforehand you are not bringing your phone, and maybe we will turn up without our phone, too!

Have additional thoughts on smartphone etiquette? Add them to the comments below!

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