People Who Sit With Us Come First

When I blogged Monday evening, I didn’t appreciate the nerve I was tweaking. Thanks for all the comments and emails (and please read the threads on GovLoop, where this blog is mirrored).

Left unchecked, I am a culprit in awkward social behaviors with my devices than most people. I say “left unchecked” because despite what many readers observe in conference appearances, I am rarely among a crowd of fellow texting, tweeting, networking people. Most of my social time I’m with family, friends and peers who are not so wired as I am.

My wife sets only one guideline (I’m not one for rules) that encourages my attention to the life forms I am with “in the flesh.”

Keep devices away from the dinner table. This means no phone in my pocket. Instead, I keep it on “vibrate” in the my office. We hold this rule for our guests, kids, me — all equally applied. My kids are sponges for my computing habits, and this helps make our customs explicit: people who sit with us come first.

My wife, in her wisdom, suggested this after I first got an iPhone. As a result, unless I am surrounded by fellow gadget, texting and gaming geeks (my people), I tend to keep my phone in my pocket or jacket, sometimes turning it off so I don’t even notice it vibrating.

Occasionally work has to come first, in which case, knowing that a call might come in that I have to take, I excuse myself from the table and take the call or Skype in my office. Otherwise, we let the phone ring through dinner (even our house phone).

I travel for work quite a bit, which is a different context with slight exceptions to this general guideline. For instance, I take out my phone to note something important that’s said (and then I put the device away). I do that when I don’t have a Moleskine journal and pen with me (which I normally do).

I bring my iPad with me into working meetings and collaborative activities particularly because of its low profile. The design of the device channels my focus to do the one thing i need to do and get back to the people sitting with me.

The iPad is interesting as a social device (something I might blog about later). My point is that this expectation influences my own behavior in lots of contexts. Your mileage may vary.

I will wrap up this spate of posts tomorrow with a few ideas on how to influence an environment that benefits everyone’s communication habits.

Hint: it’s going to be all about you.

Related posts:

  1. Who’s Texting Whom?
  2. Why We Text
  3. The Speed of Text

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Stephanie Slade

I think it’s as simple as, there are times when use of technology is appropriate and times when it is not. The dinner table is an example of the latter. A business meeting or classroom on the other hand is a time when it would be fine to have your laptop or tablet out. Those are the situations such devices were built for.