Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't take it out so much in public

By it, I'm referring to cell phones, Blackberries and other personal communication devices (yes, walkie talkies count).

I realize I'm not the first to say this, and yes, I am guilty of the habit, but I noticed a scenario yesterday that helped me see things under a new LCD light.

A '40-something daughter was eating dinner with her elderly parents. It appeared as if she hadn't seen them in a while; they were snapping photos, having the waiter take a few shots, chatting, etc. Then, mid-conversation, the daughter took out her BB and began reading it and sending messages. It was as if her parents were no longer there.

Yes, I was eavesdropping - or should I say observing - but this struck me as just plain rude behaviour (and also struck an embarrassing chord). And I had to restrain myself from taking my own BB out and looking at it (knowing full-well that it was a Saturday evening and there was nothing of import).

Which made me wonder: do we have to be that connected every moment of the day? Have we all become like on-call doctors, waiting to be summoned to ER? Our public device-scanning obsession is a lot like talking to someone at a party but constantly looking over their shoulder to see if someone better is coming by.

And I know smoking is no longer acceptable, but picture this: after a nice dinner and some great conversation, two people have a coffee and light up a cigarette. Yes, it's bad for you (disclaimer inserted to avoid politically correct comments). But what a way to share a moment (and in old movies it sure looked great).

Now, imagine the situation except replace cigarette with Blackberry. It just isn't the same.

Since the beginning of the year, I've been trying not to read emails when I walk on the street and I think I'm successful almost 70 per cent of the time. Occasionally, I'll pull it out (habit) and pretend I'm just looking at the time, but all the while scanning to see how many new messages I received in the last 10 minutes.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is I'm going to attempt to be more discreet about my BB use and urge you to do the same (and by discreet, I don't mean holding it under a table at a meeting and thumbing away).

My goal is to not look at it so incessantly; to shut it off more at home; to pay more attention to the people actually around me.

Sure, there will always be reasonable exceptions; times when you need to send an email or take the call. But maybe, like being more eco-friendly, we should all conserve a little bit.




Filed from the 2008 Counselors Academy conference.

3 comments:

Berardo said...

If you google “Blackberry etiquette” you’ll find tons of sites with Dos & Don’ts… People are using their BBs at the most inopportune times. Forbes online asks: “Is the BB ruinging your sex life? ! (Think back to how Paris inappropriately answered her cell phone…) It would seem that we learn over time to establish acceptable rules about when and when not to use our PDAs. Some say we’re just adapting and eventually we won’t be so uncouth in our BB usage—just as we’ve learned to handle our cell phones. But a word of caution may be in order: With the demands of a busy hyper-connected world, we need self-control…we need to cut the e-cord before it becomes an e-shackle.

Martin Waxman said...

Thanks Berardo,
I e-agree with you. However, I've found that it's easier said than done (case in point, my checking messages yesterday on the street). I'm trying, but I'll have to do better.

Amanda Laird said...

I hate being the jerk scrolling through her BlackBerry, but sometimes the buzz of an incoming message is just too hard to resist!

It should be common sense that you have to draw a line somewhere and there is always a time and a place.

A couple of years ago I briefly dated an otherwise lovely young man who just could not resist the urge of the buzz. He was constantly scrolling through his messages and tapping away. The shoe dropped however when he answered a call mid-dinner without so much as offering an apology before he answered the call, which took more than five minutes. Even after he finished the call there was no excuse, no apology.

Poor BlackBerry/PDA/cell manners = poor manners in general.