Smartphones are without a doubt incredible tools. Nothing is out of our reach anymore provided we have internet. Nothing is unknowable, and almost nobody is unreachable. However, this kind of unlimited access that fits into the palm of your hand is rather addictive. That is why establishing a set of rules for smartphone use both when we are and are not in the company of others is essential.
It’s evident that new ways of social interaction are developing along with smartphones as they push the envelope and offer more immersive features and services. Still, it used to be unacceptable not to look someone in the eye while holding a conversation, but what happens to this and similar social conventions when you don´t even have to be in the same country, let alone the same room to successfully communicate? Or when all communication you need is through memes and GIFs alone, even when all parties involved are in actual physical attendance? How do we establish rules when the physical realm of communication and the virtual collide?
Researchers at the Pew Research Center conducted an in-depth survey to try and establish the rules of smartphone engagement. Looking at their results can shed some light on what the current smartphone etiquette is.
In the survey, Americans were asked whether it is okay to fiddle with your phone when in public. For the most part, the nation was in agreement. Three-quarters of the surveyed approved of being immersed in your virtual life on public modes of transport or while queuing at your favorite coffee shop or your local market. The same number of people disapproved of using your phone during family or corporate events. People deem it acceptable to use your phone when you are alone or with strangers around you, and when you are not directly inconveniencing others. However, it is a smartphone faux pas to stare into your screen when you are in the company of people that expressly demand your attention. For example, when in a meeting or out with friends or family.
And yet, almost 90% of the surveyed people admitted to the researchers that they’ve used their phone in situations where they wanted to extract themselves from the physical company of others, or when an online conversation was too enticing to ignore.
Finally, playing with the idea of what exactly inconveniences people, the researchers asked the people surveyed what they thought about phone calls being conducted on a speakerphone. An almost absolute agreement was reached that this is the worst thing you can do.
With the proliferation of social media and various other platforms where you can build a virtual persona and interact only with people who have the same interests and values as you, it is more enticing than ever to stay online most of the time. That said, it is also more critical than ever to balance things out and give yourself time to disconnect while connecting with your surroundings, and the people around you, especially family, friends, and partners.