Information Overload: Practice screen etiquette

April 20, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 22, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.

By C.J. Castillo

Ever been at a social gathering, trying to have a conversation with someone who keeps glancing at their cellphone? Not only do they keep looking at their phone, but they appear to be having a conversation with another person via text messaging. If you find this annoying, you are not alone.

David Carr of The New York Times recently wrote a piece ("Keep Your Thumbs Still When I'm Talking to You") about "screen etiquette" and how it relates to real-life interactions with people.

Carr made this comparison: Suppose you are at a party talking to someone who keeps looking over your shoulder at all the other people in the room, totally ignoring your conversation. That's rude, right?

Now, compare that situation to talking to someone who keeps staring at the smartphone in their hand, texting someone who is not you. Is that rude? Or is it just life in this modern age?

As Carr writes, "Add one more achievement to the digital revolution: It has made it fashionable to be rude."

In this day and age, so many have smartphones at the hip, ready to text, tweet, upload and update every little detail of their life as it happens. And they have to do it now! It doesn't matter if you are at dinner or at the movies because who knows what will happen if you don't share that awesome pic of that slice of ham that looks like Abe Vigoda?

I'll be the first to admit that I have been guilty of the same during my initial foray into the Twittersphere. I was tweeting up a storm until I finally realized I was missing things, missing life, by being too preoccupied with chronicling everything I did. And, really, who cares about that robot I almost made entirely out of PopTart boxes? You can read all about it later in my life story, which I'm sure will then be adapted into a Lifetime movie.

However, I do still take photos of my meals from time to time. Don't ask me why. It's just something I do. But I will let my lunch or dinner companions know what I am doing, apologize for my weirdness, and then quickly put my phone away after the moment is captured.

Carr writes up a "Guide to Smartphone Manners" to go along with his piece, and first on the list is: "Go ahead, glance at your phone at an incoming text. And please excuse yourself to respond to one that will immediately advance your plot to take over the world. But do not type under my nose. It hurts my feelings."

I know we can't change people overnight, and there will be times when we may be waiting on an important email or text message that needs our attention right away. That's understandable. But a little common courtesy in this digital age will go a long way. And it will make your friends and family happy, too. Trust me.

CJ Castillo writes about geeky stuff for the Victoria Advocate. You can contact her at Please send all correspondence c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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