There are few things more trivial and more important than manners. Some of them are incredibly trivial, such as not putting your elbows on the table. This came from how sailors ate – they would have to use their elbows to brace their bowls on a swaying ship, and it became associated with being coarse and low-brow, even though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing so. But it is one of those things that got passed down, and now it taken as a sign of moral rectitude or lack thereof. Many of our traditions are nothing more than accepted wisdom and archaic customs gussied up with an air of righteousness.
And yet…etiquette is an extremely important part of how we function as a society. It guides our daily interactions and, in many ways, helps keep the boiling id from being set forth. This is why it’s important to talk about some “dos” and “don’ts” of mobile tech, tablet, and smartphone etiquette. This isn’t trivial – as technology plays an ever-increasing role in our lives and as we become more and more attached to it, there will have to be new standards set. This has been a big week or so for the topic, so here are a few demonstrations of what not to do.
Don’t Text During a Performance (but it’s ok elsewhere)
This can also be read as “Don’t annoy Patti LuPone.” During a recent performance, the stage legend snatched a smartphone from a texting patron and walked off with it (somehow without breaking character). According to LuPone, the woman had been texting through the entire show, distracting both the cast and the audience. While you might question LuPone’s tactics, they draw attention to a growing problem. We live in an era where all thoughts are mediated by the need to share them, and while this woman may not have been texting about the show, many people are texting, tweeting, and otherwise commenting on what they’re seeing in any given moment. For better or worse, it is part of our culture now, and for younger people, it’s almost become a part of their nature. So here’s the compromise: loud concerts, outdoor movies, sporting events, etc. – that’s fine. People who want to shout “just watch the game” are out of line. It’s a huge field and a minimal distraction. But if you can distract the people performing or the people who have paid to see the performance (or movie), just stop. It’s gotten so bad that LuPone said she’s considering giving up performing, and that would be a tragedy.
Do Selfie and Text When Changing the World
When activist Brittany “Bree” Newsome climbed a pole to remove the Confederate flag after the horrific massacre at a Charleston church, social media lit up. While she herself wasn’t taking selfies or tweeting during the brave act, pictures of her shot around the world. The images became instantly iconic on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – the whole modern panoply. This led to some people, of course, calling it nothing more than a publicity stunt, and others accused the social shares of trivializing the act. This is shortsighted, I think. We live in a time when mobile tech allows anyone to be an activist. The whole point of activism is to inspire and rally people around your cause (whatever it is). Just because some people use social media for trivial things, or at least not things of earthshaking importance, doesn’t mean that any use of it is just for publicity, or that it somehow make greatness smaller. The world has expanded and our ideas of how to share it have to expand equally.
Seriously, Don’t Make the World Your Charging Station
Another story from the world of live theater – a theater patron with a tragically dying phone galumphed onto a stage and tried to plug his phone into a prop outlet. This is considered a pretty shocking breach of manners. We all need to charge our phones, and sometimes even urgently, although I’m guessing this kid didn’t have a lot of pressing business matters mid-performance. Having charged phones is extremely important. Even when you’re well-equipped with battery pack accessories, batteries can still fade. It should not be considered rude to plug in your phone at a friend’s house or office, or in a public spot if possible, but the world is not your charging station. You don’t have unfettered rights to plug in anywhere. And this should go without saying, but don’t climb onto a stage. You never actually know where Patti LuPone is going to be.
Do Take Selfies When You Win the World Cup
Granted, this isn’t going to apply to all of us. But when something amazing happens, use your smartphone or tablet to take a picture. We all want to see it. We all want to share in your joy. Whether you kicked the winning goal in your work soccer league or hit a 60-yard blast that brought the Cup back to the USA, share your moment. You can be as private as you want – that’s your right – but etiquette has changed. Forced reticence and a stiff upper lip aren’t required anymore, and we think that’s for the better. Enjoy life and let others help you enjoy it, if you want. Raise your elbows and let the confetti fall.