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.