Busted Halo

In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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January 26th, 2011

Sending a Message You Don’t Care


sendingmessage-flashI don’t have a BlackBerry or an iPhone. I know, I know, it’s absurd that I’ve gone this long without the pacifier-tether that is a handheld device. So when I complain about friends and family who use these gadgets at dinner, the theater, in meetings and beyond, I usually get written off as a Luddite.

Which is why I love when others kick up a fuss about this issue, too. Christine Pearson’s New York Times piece was picked up by newspapers nationwide this weekend, and I caught it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.

CrackBerry.com offered its etiquette guidelines a few years back:

Most e-mails can wait and turning that BlackBerry off during meetings or at least putting out of sight might be good for your nerves and your career.

Peter Post weighed in on the etiquette on mobile devices at public events

The one specific place where I advise people to turn off these devices is in a restaurant. Enjoy the people you are with and show them the respect they deserve by focusing on them and not on your BlackBerry.

CIO.com had a wonderful (but depressing) post around the holidays last year noting that

“Thou must not use the iPhone during religious events” and “If you must text, head to the bathroom”

And Wired.com updated this whole debate with the official frequently-asked-questions guide to iPad etiquette recently.

If none of this resonates, here’s my final plea: If you want to have people continue to be your friends enough to have your mobile device vibrate and ping with incoming calls and emails, you need to act like a friend in real life and prioritize them. Human interaction — try it. You might like it.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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  • Rachel

    My husband from time to time texts at the dinner table. It drives me crazy! We have 2 small children and I pray that he gives up this dreadful habit before they are old enough to want to do the same.

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