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Smartphone Etiquette

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I have often heard discussions on how rude it is to pull out your smartphone during meetings, during meals, and so on.  Personally I am against it, but I understand where there may be mitigating circumstances – sick parents or sick children for example.  With that said, there are a lot of people who will disagree with me, and that is fine… it is their right to be wrong Winking smile

Yes, I say that as a joke… some people will accept it more readily than I would, just like some people would sit in a restaurant wearing a hat.  According to the etiquette of polite society that is completely wrong, but welcome to 2016, right?

Because it has not been drilled into me (the way the hat thing was) I am never tempted to tell people sitting at other tables in restaurants to put their smartphones away.  It’s not my business what they do, and frankly I don’t care.  It doesn’t even bother me.  Yes, hats in restaurants do bother me, but again, I can’t save the world… I can only be responsible for myself.

So the question is, when does it become my business?

Several times over the past couple of years I have been sitting in a restaurant when someone at another table starts playing a game, watching a video, having a speakerphone conversation on their smartphone.  They make no effort to silence it – they don’t wear headphones, they don’t mute it, they don’t even turn the volume down.  That disturbs me.

Let me clarify… I am not talking about loud restaurants or fast-food joints like McDonald’s.  I am talking about sit-down restaurants with menus and cutlery and wait staff and all that.

What should I say?  So far I have not said a word… I have just sat there grinding my teeth at the disturbance.

I had the conversation about this with a friend recently, and he was on the fence about it.  After all, he said, except in the hoity-toitiest of restaurants patrons are not expected to remain silent… is their electronic device (smart phone, tablet, hand-held game machine) not simply an extension of them and if so, is the noise from said device not simply the same thing as them talking and having a conversation?

I thought about this for quite some time, and I do not agree with this position.

I am not an audiologist; I am not a sound engineer.  I am however a pretty observant person.  There is a difference between the noise generated by conversation and the noise generated by an electronic device – especially if one is watching a movie or playing a video game with diverse sounds effects such as beeps, explosions, music, and whatnot.  Sitting in a coffee shop with people having conversations all around is not at all the same thing as walking into the middle of a video game arcade or a movie theatre.

And then there was the family who decided to call grandma while they were having breakfast together.  Everyone else in the restaurant was having a nice, quiet meal, and then all of a sudden this family has grandma on the speakerphone… and I have no issue with grandma, but when speaking into a speakerphone and especially speaking to grandma… and especially speaking to grandma on a speakerphone where there is ambient noise trying to compete with you… you are going to raise your voice; it is natural and expected behaviour.  That is not to say that in the middle of a restaurant it should be acceptable behaviour.

I know society has changed… and G-d knows I do not think that I was raised well in a lot of respects; but when it comes to manners in public my parents made it very clear: behave according to polite society, or face the consequences.  The consequences with my mother were not idle threats – they hurt.  While I am completely against corporal punishment, I think it is a shame that when I see someone wearing a hat in a restaurant or playing video games or watching movies at full volume the answer is not to confront them, rather ‘Hey, it’s the new millennium… what can you do?’

Unfortunately I seem to be in a minority… and the words ‘publicly acceptable behaviour’ seem to have been changed from what I was taught to what is not specifically against the law.

Sigh.  Welcome to the new millennium.  Have a great week-end.

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1 Comment

  1. Kez says:

    I am glad to read this, at least I have across someone who has a similar way of thinking as mine. I tend to find making speakerphone call in public especially in a restaurant to be disrespectful to the people around, I think its a bleach of other people’s right. I do not think it is something to do with the generation since I am quite young but tend to find that habit to be annoying. I also tend to find it so annoying when you are talking to someone yet they are busy chatting with friends on Whatsapp or other social media platforms. It is not just annoying but it is also very rude.

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