Mobile Manners: Propriety in the Modern World

Right now, the importance of mobile technology in modern life is incredibly clear. In just about two decades, it has become very difficult for people to imagine living without their mobile gadgets. Who can get anything done if they don’t have their smartphones, laptops, or tablets with them? Mobile phones, most especially, have become so essential that they might as well become part of our bodies. How can we possibly stay sane when we know that we’re missing out on crucial information just because we don’t have our phones on our pockets?

Just thinking about life today without mobile technology is enough to make the average workaholic (and the typical teenager) break out in hives. With cloud technology on the rise as well, our mobile tech dependence has only gotten stronger. Cloud based phone systems like RingCentral has made business communications more flexible than ever while file storage and sharing services like SugarSync makes working from anywhere possible.

Unfortunately, our apparent road to becoming a race of super-efficient cyborgs is also making us rude.

Are you seriously saying that manners still matter?

Here’s a news flash for people out there: yes, manners still matter in this world. In fact, they matter a lot, even if the popularity of social networking has made being casual the “in thing.”

If we really stop and think about it, the basis of our best relationships in this world is mutual respect. Believe it or not, manners have something to do with the amount of respect that we receive from each other. Remember, first impressions last; if we come off as flippant, standoffish, or impolite, a potentially good connection may be put off and decide that we’re not worth it. Given that, let’s admit it, we as a species need others of our kind to survive, we probably don’t want that to happen.

So yeah, manners matter.

How technology is contributing to rudeness

Let’s get one thing clear – despite the first few mental images that come to mind when we say “manners,” the concept is not exclusively relegated to proper honorifics, the use of handkerchiefs, and the knowledge of which fork to use at a formal dinner. Rather, it’s a general set of behaviors that rest on the principle of courtesy making it, as we have mentioned before, all about showing respect for other people and their boundaries.

Technology, in changing our lives and, in effect, much of our behavior, has made it so much easier for us to forget rules and boundaries by making physical boundaries nearly irrelevant. Right now, we can call anyone, anywhere, anytime. We can be reached at any time, no matter where we are. And we assume that we HAVE to respond immediately because that’s what we expect of others. Every time we hear our smartphones ring or see pop-ups on our desktops for incoming email, we drop everything to attend to them.

We do it even if we’re in the middle of a Fourth of July dinner our mothers had slaved over. If that isn’t rude and hurtful, then we might as well just give up our humanity and turn into robots because no Fourth of July actually deserves that.

Practicing propriety in the mobile world

Here’s the thing – manners in the mobile world are ridiculously easy to master if we allow ourselves to become aware of our tech dependence. Once we recognize that, yes, it’s a tad bit rude to answer emails in the middle of a conversation and that putting a colleague on speakerphone while you’re in public is gauche, we can institute some countermeasures.

For example, we can let the call go to voicemail – there’s a reason why voicemail exists, after all. We can check email later – it’s not as if those are going away. Just for our own peace of mind, we can put our gadgets on silent mode (better yet, you can turn them off) for an hour or two. And, if we’re perfectly capable of talking to someone face-to-face, we might as well do it. Believe it or not, texting takes far too much effort considering the fact that we’re sitting right next to the person we want to have a conversation with.

Remember, the keyword is respect – don’t we all want that anyway?