The New Normal: Mobile Manners in the Smartphone Age

by Jordan Richardson on September 25, 2012

When cell phones first arrived on the scene, they were largely the property of corporate users and a few other users. The rest of us, so to speak, would often look at cell phone users with disdain and treat their loudly-answered calls with derision. Restaurants used to ban cell phones, while it was considered rude to sit on a phone during a movie.

Just a few seemingly short years later, things have changed.

Smartphones are ubiquitous and are no longer the property of corporate users and rich folks. Everyone from preschoolers to senior citizens use some form of mobile communications. They are used frequently in restaurants, whether through text messaging or other uses. It is not uncommon to see a couple heavily engaged in their smartphones and not each other. And it’s not unheard of to see the lights of countless little screens during a movie or live theatre presentation.

The rush to “update” Facebook friends as to the status of desserts or the appearance of a sleeping kitten has created a bizarre social construct, to say the least, and what was once demonized as bad behaviour is now considered normal.

A Vodafone survey that involved 2,000 British adults shed more light on just how much things have changed.

Perhaps the first thing to note about the survey is how it reveals how much communications have changed in general. 90 percent of those surveyed said that they received some form of “very important” information on their smartphones. One third of respondents claimed to have received a job offer, while 15 percent heard about the birth of a child. This isn’t surprising.

What is surprising is how the promise of potentially “very important” information has altered certain social habits.

33 percent of respondents said that they think it’s acceptable to answer the phone during sex. Over half said that it’s perfectly fine to answer the phone during dinner, while 51 percent will answer their phones during a wedding ceremony. And, as though to prove that these are truly the End of Days, 57 percent of those surveyed said they’d answer the phone while on the toilet.

“It seems as a nation we’re desperate not to miss out on the latest gossip no matter what we’re up to,” Srini Gopalan of Vodafone UK said. “But this doesn’t mean you have to take a call even when you’re responding to the call of nature, having a romantic dinner or in bed.”

Also of note, the survey revealed that most of the smartphone users have between one and 50 contacts on their phones but really only regularly contact around five to ten people. 80 percent of respondents said they had numbers in their phone’s address book that they’d never called.

There are a number of ways to interpret this data, of course. Phone companies and smartphone makers have to be happy with the reality that their products and services have become truly “essential” in these times. Sociologists have a mountain of ways to approach the data, while psychologists might describe this seeming dependency in the same way they’d illuminate the reality of cell phone addiction.

But more than any of the experts and corporations, the most important way to interpret this data – and other surveys like it – is to determine what this means for ourselves and our own smartphone habits. Maybe it’s time to let that next call go to voicemail…

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. Follow by: RSSTwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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