Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

5 Rules to Avoid Being a Smartphone Jerk

Number One: Flesh before machine.

Smartphones have only been around for a few years but they have certainly taken the world by storm. One of my college students tells me he even knows second-graders who have them. And if those children are like most users, they're probably hooked: A recent study found that the average person checks their phone well over 100 times per day. So I wasn’t surprised when NPR recently contacted me to discuss Smartphone etiquette after reading one of my Psychology Today blog posts regarding this topic. Based on that conversation and others, here are a few simple rules that can help you not become a smartphone jerk:

  1. People trump phones. When out with others, always remember that people trump phones. It's a good mantra to recite and remember. Nothing feels more rude than trying to engage in conversation with someone who keeps looking at and interacting with their phone. So one very simple rule is to put flesh before machine—being with others always comes before checking the phone.
  2. Ask before picking up. Of course sometimes you really do need to take a call, check your email, read a text, or see how your favorite sports team is doing in a big game. But if someone is in your presence, ask him or her first if they mind you doing so. Showing respect to others goes a long way.
  3. Don’t make people wait. Don’t frustrate service providers, colleagues, friends, family, or anyone by making them wait for you to look up from your phone. Waiters and waitresses, store clerks, baristas, and neighbors are all are people too and it can frustrate them to no end to have to wait for someone to get their nose out of their phone before providing service or a response.
  4. Don’t multitask. Cognitive science research clearly shows that people really don’t do two things at once. Rather, they shift attention in quick busts between several focal points. So, you really aren’t checking your phone and listening to others at the same time. You're just quickly shifting your attention between multiple tasks and diminishing your attention to both.
  5. Three words: Kindness, graciousness, and respect. If you try to be kind, gracious, and respectful to others, the reality of smartphone use and abuse will become more clear. If you start all of your actions with kindness, graciousness, and respect you really can’t go wrong.

 

Check out my webpage at www.scu.edu/tplante and follow me on Twitter @ThomasPlante.

Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

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