Technology Etiquette, is there such a thing?
Everyone has it and everyone benefits from it on some level. We use it for all of the things some of us remember doing in some other manual or less-efficient way. In the real estate industry, we went from paper catalogues to our current Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that is currently the hub of all real estate transactions with a giant jump forward in technology. With an MLS listed property in Florida (who have broad open public records laws), we can click a button and review an incomprehensible amount of data relating in some fashion to it, providing clients with comprehensive facts to help them make important decisions … and we can do this from our phones, you know the incredibly addicting device that literally manages our lives. For most of us, however, technology not only manages our lives, but controls it and this has a double-edged-sword type of impact on how it affects us as social beings.
It’s now easier than ever to connect with old friends and family that you’ve lost touch with. It’s also much easier to advertise a brand, find a job, and discover companies and people that you want to do business with, all done with these wonderful handheld devices and an internet connection. Communication is so much more enhanced by the numbers of people you can electronically touch that it makes doing so irresistible. Beyond communication, there are as many apps for phones as there are ideas.
But, what happens when a group of friends get together and they can’t separate themselves from their devices enough to enjoy each other’s company? Or, when someone who’s present demands your attention, distracting you from your own work, only to answer their phone as soon as it rings? Or my favorite, when a medical doctor answers his cell phone during an appointment with a patient, then picks up another phone to make a call (now sitting in front of the patient who’s paying for his time with a phone in each ear speaking about nothing to do the patient before him)? What message does that send? At what point do we consider any of this to be rude, disrespectful or bad business practices? How far should we tolerate it or say enough is enough? Even more importantly, at what point does our distraction from being present in-the-now because of our devices actually degrade and distance our relationships with others?
A Pew Study from 2015 indicated that 89% of respondents said that they used their cell phones in their last social gathering, while 86% report that someone else in the group used theirs. 30% used their phones for purposes of “retreating-from-the-group”, but 78% report using their device for some type of “group-contributing” reasons. The study also revealed that what we find reprehensible in others’ usage was most often not adopted as a self-discipline.
Everyone sets their own standard of practices and there are few commonly accepted etiquettes that people can agree upon, but people should understand how their adopted standard, if they have one, will affect the ones who matter, you know – the person sitting right in front of them. Maybe they could start by placing themselves in the other person’s situation or maybe they could just call them.