While smartphones are understandably a huge part of almost everyone’s daily lives- the average person checks their phone over one hundred times per day. Our devotion to our phones might feel appropriate as it’s how we communicate with friends, family, work and store valuable personal data. It’s become a modern day lifeline. However, the etiquette surrounding the smartphone hasn’t caught on.
It may be a quiet tube car or plane cabin pre-flight, with just a small murmuring of disparate conversations until someone uses the moment to squawk on their phone. Everyone else in the confined space is subjected to a stranger’s one-sided conversation.
Now, we may be used to this, however, it’s rude. It seems we’ve forgotten to set, or pay attention to, our actions in public social settings. We check our phones constantly- it’s a physiological and social addiction.
Research reveals our bodies produce a spike in dopamine when we get likes on our photos, making social media evermore addicting. The internet provides us with a dehumanized space that allows for honesty and (inadvertently), hostility due to anonymity. University of Michigan researchers say we’re now more narcissistic and less empathetic. This is spilling out from the virtual world and into the real one. We’ve come to believe we come first and foremost in any social setting.
It knows no generational or socio-economic boundaries- young, professional, old- every age bracket has made an offense. Do we now live in an age of entitlement? Do we feel entitled because we have the world at our fingertips? Or is it because technology has enabled us to always be connected that we now have trouble switching off?
Telecommunications giant BT has even devoted an article to sharing top tips for mobile phone etiquette, listing common consideration such as: no phones during meals, no phones when catching up with friends or family, and no loud conversations in public places and be mindful of your selfie sticks.
Millennials and Generation Z now consume media on a daily basis by switching fluidly back-and-forth between three and five devices. Social scientist Sherry Turkle says children nowadays must compete with their parents’ devices for their attention, as work doesn’t need to stop once they’ve left the office. We’ve become hyper-sensitive to face-to-face communications and lack eye contact.
Our attention spans have dwindled down to eight seconds (that of a goldfish) and a generation now feels vulnerable to spontaneous phone calls. Will we maintain a standard of social decorum or will we evolve to let technology reign supreme over both manners and ourselves?