I’m a stickler for good manners, and politeness’ biggest promoter. It’s the little things that matter, the things we’re taught as children but appear to forget as adults, like saying please and thank you, not speaking with your mouth full and not letting a door slam in someone’s face. Or how about not allowing yourself to be distracted at the dinner table? Or to always pay attention to the person talking to you?
I’m sorry to say that I’ve been letting the latter two points slide of late.
I recently read an article in the May issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. The headline asked ‘Do you mind your mobile manners?’ In my head I instantly answered ‘yes’ but while reading through the article I had to be truly honest with myself and change the ‘yes’ to a ‘no.’ This realization left me a little dismayed what with being such a huge advocate for good manners and all. The article discussed the need for mobile phones to be perpetually perched on the edge of the table when out with family or friends, ready for you to fire off an email or reply to a text. It asked if this kind of behaviour was really that bad.
Well I’d have to say, even though I’m guilty of it myself, that yes it is that bad. It’s just plain rude. And this makes me a bit of a hypocrite doesn’t it?
You see it was only the other day that I was sitting in Costa with Mamma Smith sipping on a hazelnut latte that she had to actually tell me to put my phone down. There I was doing all kinds of iPhone admin while Mamma Smith sat there talking to herself like a lemon. I didn’t whip out my phone with the intention of being rude but that’s half the problem, I was totally oblivious to it. I took out my phone and began to use it without really thinking because mobiles have become such an accepted part of everyday life and communication. You think that it’s ok. It really isn’t.
I’ve done it and I have had it done to me so many times but I don’t think people shirk their mobile manners on purpose. Picking up your phone as soon as it lights up has become a reflex action and people take little notice of the social situation they are in. They don’t stop to consider how discourteous and excluding it is to the person/people sat opposite them. Whether you are out to dinner with family, lunching with friends or out on a date, for the love of god put your phone away.
When I commit this social boo boo I’m usually checking my emails, replying to tweets or faffing around on Instagram. Nothing terribly important. If you find it totally necessary to check yourself in on Facebook or post a picture of your meal get it over and done with at the start then stash your mobile. Out of sight out of mind.
When I’m out with friends my iPhone is sat on the table, their iPhone is sat on the table and we each have one eye on each other and the other eye on our mobiles. Are we getting the most out of our time together? I think not. Trouble is with all kinds of smart phones you can now talk to the world and his mother at the touch of a button, that’s some serious competition. But at what point did it become socially acceptable to ignore the person your with? By texting, tweeting, Facebooking or emailing in company you are basically telling that person that they are not important or interesting enough to warrant your full attention. Kinda rude huh?
If we are being honest is there really a tweet or a text that can’t wait until you’ve finished that meal or that conversation? Will your world really come crashing down if you don’t answer that email right away?
When you are out socially with someone you like to feel that they are listening, that they give a damn about what you have to say so it’s a little off putting when they start paying more attention to their phones than they do you.
Some will say in the age of the smart phone and social networking there is no reason to wait. But I think there is a reason, and that’s good manners. Just because technology is changing this shouldn’t mean that the boundaries of politeness should.
From now on when I sit down for a meal, or a coffee, the next time I’m out in company my iPhone will stay firmly in my bag and my attention will instead be focused on those with whom I am with rather than those on the other end of a tweet or text. And if like me you have been guilty of this social sin perhaps from now on your iPhone, Blackberry etc should stay off the table and out of your hands. Lets start to appreciate and respect the art of face to face conversation.