Saturday, January 28, 2012

Technology Etiquette

Over the past ten years technology has become more a part of our daily lives than ever before. Between the Internet and smart phones, we are living in a completely different world. I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with technology. We all have to agree that the resources we have at our finger tips is utterly amazing. My fear with technology though, is that we may miss out on the authenticity of a true hands on experience once we are swept up in the techno world.

I notice more and more that people seem to be focused on a device in their hands than on the people around them. For this reason, I've decided to break down the "dos and don'ts" of this new era. All I would ask of you, the reader, is to give it careful consideration.

One of the most disturbing trends I've seen recently occurs when a family goes out to dinner. Over and over sitting in a restaurant, I see parents shove a phone, ipad, Nintendo DS or other device in front of their child's face. The free babysitter is in high demand. This is 100% a technology don't. If you cannot discipline and/or engage your child for fifteen minutes until the food arrives, you need to take a long, hard look at your relationship with your child. That may sound harsh to some but it is the truth. Children crave some amount of attention from their parents and as a parent you should be willing to take on that responsibility. Where will children learn social skills and other crucial emotions such as empathy, compassion etc. if they don't learn it from their family? Video games and movies are completely acceptable in a child's life, however there is a time and place for these and the dinner table is not one of them.

A technology do, would be playing a movie or bringing their Nintendo DS during a long drive. Travel can wear on the best of us. I wouldn't completely rule out conversation or perhaps a book, but technology can be a wonderful luxury in this situation.

This technology don't should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I think some may need to hear it. If you are on a date or meeting a friend, do NOT text or take calls in the middle of this get-together. This would especially apply to a dinner or other one-on-one occasion. It is rude. It also implies that the individual you are with is not important/interesting enough to keep your full attention. This is a very clear, honest signal. Now if you are on a date (especially early on in a relationship) and this occurs, I would suggest politely addressing the issue or accepting that this individual is not the right choice for you. They obviously do not value your company.

A technology do, would be to only answer your phone in the case of an emergency. Politely explain this to your present company and take the call. Another do, would be if you are partaking in a relaxed visit at home and an important call is received. If for example, your spouse calls because they've forgotten that you are not free to chat, answer your phone. Politely tell the caller that you are with your friend Gayle at the moment and will return their call when you are free to talk.

I've seen this next technology don't, fairly frequently and frankly, I don't like what it says about our culture's mentality. If you are purchasing an item or at a restaurant, it is rude to talk on your phone while a server or cashier is trying to deal with you. These people are not your slaves, there to wait on you hand and foot. Their time is just as valuable as yours and they deserve that respect. You are also being rude to the other customers that now have to wait for you to hang up your phone before they can be helped. An even worse case scenario would be if you are attempting to hold a conversation with both the cashier and the person on the phone at the same time. Now you can add one more person to the list that you are being rude to.

A technology do in this situation is very simple. If you are about to check out and you receive a call that you must take, let the person behind you go ahead. If you are at a restaurant, politely ask the server to give you a moment because you must take this call. If perchance you fall victim in this scenario and are on the phone with the etiquette offender, let them know that you have recognized that this is not a good time for them to talk. Explain to them that you will let them go and they can call you back at a better time.

There is one more no-brainer that needs to be addressed. This is a technology faux paus that I believe many of us may take for granted. You should never, ever text, or use any kind of distracting device while driving. You shouldn't read a newspaper either although its not very technology related. I've seen it happen, so it needs to be addressed. The dangers of driving are often forgotten. If you are reading this article for example, you have not died in a car crash. Some will not learn the lesson here until they have. That is a hard lesson to learn. There are many factors that contribute to accidents but one of the easiest to avoid is a technology distraction. Whatever text you receive, it is not as important as your life. You need to understand this. Any one text could be the one to cause a fatality. Do you want other drivers on the road with you, texting on their phone instead of focusing on not taking your life? This is a simple matter of respect. While you are driving, it is not the time to focus an ounce of your attention on your phone or anything else.

The technology do here, is to simply wait until you've stopped your vehicle and arrived at your destination to check it. Put your phone out of reach if you have to. Remember the technology is not going anywhere. It can wait. If you are reading the newspaper while driving, put it down! Read it on your work break or at home to relax. If you desperately need to know the news, that's what the radio is for. That is a great use of technology while driving. Just listen while you drive and pay attention to the road.

All of these etiquette "dos and don'ts" are very simply a matter of respect. While we are free to connect with individuals all over the world, we need to respect those around us. Somehow, those nearest to us have been forgotten in the technology revolution. These technology don'ts should be socially unacceptable. Let's all take a moment to consider our behaviour and address the issue.

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