Device Etiquette Tips: How Not to Be an Annoying Tech User

Published on: March 23, 2020

We’ve all been there. You’re out for dinner with friends or family and one by one the mobile devices are displayed on the table like cutlery. Maybe you follow suit, too. After all, what if you receive a text message during the appetizer? What if you’re one quick Google search result away from knowing the answer to a trivia question during the main course? What if someone comments on your Instagram photo during dessert? 

FOMO is alive and well in the digital sphere.  

The supper table, once a place for uninterrupted and intimate social gatherings, has become polluted with the same amount of electronic noise and broken concentration you’d find on the city bus. 

But the truth is, when it comes to today’s device etiquette, there is simply no place setting for your phone at dinner. Set it to silent, turn on the do not disturb setting and live in the moment. 

If you’re wondering how many other phone faux pas and electronic indiscretions you’re making on a daily basis, here are seven other best practices you can apply to your digital life — starting now.

Don’t surf and drive

Here’s an interesting tidbit: every time you check a text message for five seconds while driving at 90k/hr, it’s the equivalent of travelling the length of a football field while blindfolded. That’s nearly 110 metres of road! Pretty scary when you think about it. According to data from the National Safety Council, approximately 26 per cent of all car crashes involve phone use. Sure, a fender bender is annoying — and expensive — but the result of your negligence could be much more dire. Keep the phone in your pocket and your eyes on the road.  

Stop sleeping with your cellphone

Remember good old-fashioned alarm clocks? They still sell them and they work great. There’s no need for you to use your mobile device to wake you up in the morning. Plus, when your phone is within arm’s reach of the bed, your chances of using it increase. Experts have discovered that the blue light emitted by screens restrain the production of melatonin, which makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Read a book instead.

Ditch the wild ringtone 

There’s absolutely no reason for you to have Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as your ringtone. And don’t even think about using an air-raid siren. Nobody wants to hear it. You can’t go wrong with Apple’s classic “Marimba” ringtone. And if you’re hard of hearing, an “old phone” tone is both loud and recognizable without being cringe-worthy.  

Better yet: keep it silent

Alerts and notifications from our digital devices have turned us into a society of Pavlov’s Dogs. We’re all one “ding” away from satiating our seemingly endless appetite for content, whether it’s in the form of a news alert, email or a notification from a number of social media platforms. If you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone who constantly checks their phone when notifications arrive, you know how annoying it can be. Professionally, checking your phone during the workday seriously impacts productivity. Experts are now discovering that constant cellphone use is a major source of neck and back pain. Put your phone on silent mode, disable most if not all of your notifications and take back control. Check your digital device on your terms. 

Don’t walk and text

The danger of distracted driving has been making news headlines for years but what about distracted walking? Researchers have recently discovered that in the last 10 years, texting and walking (or “twalking”) has been the primary cause of more than 11,100 injuries and 5,376 pedestrian deaths. That’s serious stuff. But when you’re focused on your phone instead of the sidewalk in front of you, it also causes you to bump into people (annoying), bump into objects (London, England now has padded street lamp posts as a preventative measure) and/or possibly drop your device leading to costly repairs or replacement.   

Make calls in private 

What do grocery store check-out lines, public transit, movie theatres and restaurants all have in common? They are all places people seem to think it’s appropriate to carry on phone conversations, but it’s certainly not. Private conversations deserve a private location. Don’t annoy those around you with a barrage of one-sided chit-chat.  

Ban it from the boardroom

Meetings are a place to be engaged and productive. If you are on your phone — even if it’s for “work-related purposes” — you’re not engaged with the agenda or offering any sort of productive discourse. You’re being disrespectful to your colleagues. And yes, we all see you checking your text messages under the table.

About the Author

Jamie Hunter lives in Dundas, Ont. with his wife and two kids. Over the past 20 years, he has contributed to a variety of national lifestyle and entertainment print publications and worked in corporate communications roles at Harbourfront Centre and the University of Toronto. A self-described amateur entomologist, wannabe ornithologist, and fair-weather angler, on weekends he can be found covered in dirt tending to his gardens.

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