Gord Turner: Smartphone behaviour not always so smart

Gord Turner: Smartphone behaviour not always so smart

I didn’t want to hear about these details, but I also didn’t want to give up my bike.

Recently, I went for my workout at Selkirk College’s weight-room. At my usual stationary bicycle, I started my routine and began to peddle. Lo and behold, a young lady sat down on the bicycle beside me and began to talk on her smart-phone. To top it off, she was discussing intimate details of an evening she’d spent with some guy.

I didn’t want to hear about these details, but I also didn’t want to give up my bike. So in a grumpy voice, I asked her to please stop her call in such a public place. Alternately, I told her she could go out into the hallway and find a space separate from where people could hear.

She took offence. She told me she could use her phone in a public place and that I was wrong to try to stop her. When I insisted as a member of the public that I didn’t want to hear about her love life, she told me I was “rude”. And off she went in a huff to another part of the weight room.

On my way home, I realized that lately, I’ve been a crank about situations like this. I guess I “was” rude, and perhaps I should have got off the bicycle and found another spot to exercise. When I relayed this story to friends, they congratulated me for speaking up. Each one said the young lady was actually the one being rude.

Apparently, according to smartphone etiquette, people need to be aware of and observe a four-meter proximity rule. To have a highly-personal phone conversation within that space is not acceptable — and in fact, is viewed as rude and ignorant.

Another case in point: My wife and I were sitting in a U.S. airport waiting for our plane when a middle-aged male traveller sitting beside us phoned his lawyer. For the next 20 minutes, he harangued his attorney about the pending divorce case. He paced up and down in front of us and reminded the lawyer (and us) of how evil his wife was. In a sense, we were trapped within his sphere of conversation.

The main rule is “don’t use your smartphone in a public place where you can disturb others.” If you must make a phone call or respond to a call, move out of a room into a hallway or onto the street. Find a more private spot. Others are not interested in your call, and neither should you want others to know what you’re discussing. You also owe the recipient of the call a sense that the call is private.

I’m told that people use their phones in checkout lines at stores, basically treating cashiers as less than human. Some use their phones in elevators, in restaurants, in theatres, and in classrooms. Unless it is an emergency situation, all of these situations demand that you turn your smartphone off or to vibrate.

In fact, I read an article that suggested that people should never take a smartphone to a restaurant. Leave it in the car or jam it into the bottom of a purse. If you do have it with you, you’re supposed to turn it off and let it go to message. And never set it on the table indicating your connection to it is more important than the people you’re with. You’re having lunch or dinner with people in the flesh, so they should be more important than people via technology. One bit of advice I read stated, “If you can’t give your friends or your wife an hour of your time, cancel the meal.”

Truly, the world will not fall apart if you don’t have your phone.