The new smokers?

I had to laugh when reading this column comparing blackberry users to smokers, in terms of the annoyance caused. As a blackberry user myself, it got my attention, but as I read it I realized that this was basically the same column I’ve read about cell phone users, and the bottom line was the same. Rudeness is rudeness, no matter what “tool” you’re using to be rude. Let’s take the writer’s example:

The idea of a ban came to me after dining with an old college friend. I was confiding something, when it dawned on me that he wasn’t even listening. He was staring down at his lap, instead.

“What are you doing?” I asked, feeling dismayed.

“I’m sending you an e-mail,” he muttered.

“You’re sending me an e-mail?”

“Yeah, ’cause you said you wanted Frank’s phone number.” He raised his hand to reveal his BlackBerry. See?

Before I could choke out an astonished reply, his Nokia began chirping. “Gotta take this,” he said with an apologetic shrug. He proceeded to spend 10 minutes on the phone with his wife.

This isn’t a blackberry problem, this is a behavioral problem. This guy, apparently, didn’t realize it was rude to not listen to someone, or to spend 10 minutes talking to someone else on the phone when having dinner with someone.

Now, I’m not saying I’m always the best at handling having a blackberry but at least I try and make it a useful part of my social life as opposed to a hindrance. In a similar situation I would have done two things. One, I wouldn’t have answered the phone. My wife, knowing that I was having dinner with an old friend, wouldn’t have called, or would have simply expected to leave me a voice mail if there was something she needed me to know before coming home. She’s polite like that. Secondly, if there was a conversation about sharing some bit of information I would have sent the email, but I would have told the person I was with that I was doing it, at the moment we were talking about it. Let’s face it, sending it right then, when you’re thinking about it, is the benefit of having the device.  Don’t let them continue talking while you ignore them in order to send an email, keeping the device out of sight so they don’t notice you doing it! Here was a great opportunity to use the device to benefit both of you, instead of having the device come between you.

Blackberry’s and cell phones are communications tools, but too often they are in the hands of people whose own behavior limits their ability to communicate. That’s not the device’s fault.


Technorati tags: blackberry, etiquette

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  1. Hi Mike,
    Couldn’t he have given you the phone # on a piece of paper?

    You are of course correct that this is a behavioral problem; I find it eerily similar to something that annoys me to no end: I’m standing in line at a store, perhaps to return something or ask for a product’s location. I get the sales person’s attention, get half my request out of my mouth and then the phone behind the counter rings. For some reason, the clerk ALWAYS answers the phone, somehow believeing that a phone call is more important than a person physically standing in front of him/her. Drives me crazy. Now what I see more and more at the supermarket is my check-out clerk talking to an adjacent clerk, while processing my order. Pay attention. Mike, I love technology, but all of this stuff has become an excuse to behave boorishly.

    Regards and Best Wishes this Holiday Season,
    Earl Voss

  2. Here’s what I’m thinking, this guy probably would have used the pen to doodle with instead of listening, and if he didn’t have a pen he simply would have gazed out the window. The writer doesn’t need to ban her friends from using devices, she needs better friends!

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