PhonEtiquette: Manage Your Life While Keeping Your Friends

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Smartphones are wonderful, no argument! They streamline both work life and personal errands. Games, books and movies keep us amused. Apps support self-improvement. And communication options keep everyone in touch, fostering the opportunity to create and deepen relationships.

Alas, they are a two-edged sword. Imagine sitting across from your date, and they nonchalantly pick up their phone to answer each text betwixt your effort to enchant them with your beaming personality. Or spending the afternoon with Grandma, suspecting she loves Words with Friends more than you.

Perhaps it’s a lovely day for a bike ride, until a texting-obsessed pedestrian steps in front of you, creating a tangled mass of metal, pedals, and limbs.

The Rules, So Many Rules

There are hefty etiquette books that cover pre-mobile manners. Fortunately, society has loosened about the nonsensical positioning of silverware. At the core, manners are about living harmoniously with others.

Likewise, for the endless lists of do’s and don’ts for mobile use online. It’s not about memorizing archaic formalities of behavior; modern manners are easy to determine by considering if an action is kind to other people or not. Some are an easy call: friend crying while describing a recent heartbreak, not a time to answer a call; planning a future get-together, by all means break out the tech. Let common sense prevail, and beware of justifying rude actions because a phone beckons.

Be honest with yourself about what you’re categorizing as important; too often we let our phones dictate priorities.

Balancing Act

We can be respectful of our friends and still manage our lives efficiently. Use that magnificent phone to get stuff done and leave your free time firmly free:

  • Batch tasks and focus on completing them fully.
  • Limits distractions like Facebook and Twitter. Yup, there’s an app for that, but there’s also good old self-control.
  • Use time-management software.
  • Practice saying no. You don’t have to do everything.
  • And sometimes friends need to be that priority.

Most of all it’s the intention to be present with your current activity. Multitasking is a modern myth; we can only do one thing at a time, even if hopping from one activity to another appears as if we’re a whirlwind of productivity. Focus, finish fully, and find that to-do file fading fast.

Be Experimental

Try this next time you and a friend enjoy time together. Suggest an exercise where you both turn off phones and concentrate on each other. Truly be present. Listen intently. Discuss what it feels like to disconnect from your cells, even if temporarily. Discomfort is common at first. Why? What are you missing? What is it like connecting with another human being without the miracle box dictating where your attention goes?

Remember that we existed quite nicely before portable phones were widely available. Maybe life unfolded more gradually, maybe we left more undone. Yet if the price of efficiency and productivity is a disconnect from the people and experiences that make life richer, maybe we need to evaluate the cost.