More electronic etiquette needed

Recently I meet up with a few old friends at El Gaucho for a steak and a chance to talk shop about the upcoming 2006 election cycle. The following scenario took place. We sat down, perused the menu, and selected appropriate entrŽes for the evening’s meal. Just before my sizzling hot porterhouse was delivered to the table, a ‘gentleman’ wearing a New York Yankees jersey complete with baseball cap (on backwards of course) entered the restaurant with a young lady.

Of course, the ma”tre d’ sat the two right next to our table where the ‘gentleman’ began calling all of his friends to let them know what he was doing that evening. This continued up until the arrival of their respective entrŽes, which they wolfed down with abandon before mercifully depriving us of their presence. They most likely did not tip well.

This anecdote illustrates a growing lack of electronic etiquette in our modern age. I’m sure each of us can recall an appalling example of totally inappropriate behavior of friends or strangers in the use of personal technology. What follows should serve as a rough set of guidelines for those among us who seem to have contracted Common Sense Deficit Disorder (CSDD), particularly regarding mobile phones, iPods and electronic mail.

There are appropriate times to use a mobile phone, and they are important tools in staying connected with others. However, unless one is a doctor, chief executive officer or Batman, one should not feel obligated to stay in constant contact by telephone. This has several implications in daily life.

Whenever informally conversing in a group, one should always say, "Excuse me," before answering a ringing mobile phone. If an individual is attending a motion picture showing, that individual should turn off or silence their phone while in the theater, and one should never accept a call during the movie. When that individual is attending a live theatrical or musical performance, that individual should leave their phone in their automobile.

Seated at a table enjoying a meal, one should silence the phone until an appropriate time arrives to slip out and return/make phone calls. One should never make or receive phone calls when dining out. The rules for informal conversation apply to a casual coffee or other such outing. The tyranny of the ill-mannered mobile phone user is matched by the increasing swelling ranks of discourteous iPod wearers.

The dawning of the 21st century brought music lovers everywhere the iPod. This miraculous little device allows the user to listen to a select number of songs without the necessity of burning them onto a compact disk. Many will recognize the ubiquitous white ear bud headphones as the harbinger of an oncoming iPod owner, usually oblivious to most people/conversations around them.

I can remember to this day heading over to Wasabi Bistro for sushi with a few friends, one of whom was using his iPod en route. As we arrived, I was certain that he was going to take those ear buds out as soon as we were seated. I was wrong. Despite the obvious discomfort of those around him, he persisted in listening to music throughout the entire dining experience. This brings me to the rules of the iPod road.

Never keep your iPod headphones on when sitting down to a meal with others. Even though you may not be listening to music, you’re still sending the message that you’re not remotely interested in the conversation at the table. These rules apply to all dining situations, and all coffee situations (unless you are alone).

It has recently come to my attention that a very small minority among us feel that merely removing one ear bud is sufficiently polite when engaging in conversation or at mealtime. You know who you are, and you are wrong. Listening to me with one ear tells me that I am worth just half of your attention. Finally, keep in mind that even though wearing headphones while in mass gathering places is permitted, it does signal to others that you do not want to be bothered. Yet despite the inanities of the iPod wearer, nothing quite approaches the level of ire than bad email etiquette raises.

Electronic mail presents many issues regarding proper etiquette, and I will not pretend to cover all of the various misdeeds of individuals in the space I am allotted. That being said, this is an area of profound annoyance for most of us.

First and foremost — spell check your email! Oftentimes I will open up an email from a fellow college student to find it rife with errors. This becomes increasingly more embarrassing when it is a mass email, especially one purporting to concern a very serious topic. Not spell-checking your emails can result in you looking like an idiot.

If you get the urge to forward a really funny email to me, don’t. Chances are, not only have I read it before, but I’ve read it so many times that I’m pondering getting a restraining order against the last person who sent it to me. This problem is compounded by mass forwards that are then forwarded to another mass of people, usually without regard to whether or not there are duplicate addresses on these lists. This misuse of email makes others and me less likely to assign any kind of importance or priority to future communications from you.

In the end, if you must forward an email, make it clear that it is a forward, but clean up the top of the forward so that the reader is not forced to scroll through every other recipient of this forward since its inception. This is a matter of courtesy not only to the recipient, but to others who may not want their email addresses sent out to the four corners of the globe.

Finally, while I might wish that common sense would be enough to dictate the broad rules of polite modern living, I know very well that that is not the case. Use the following rule — if you think that your potential behavior with technology might make others around you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Chances are, your Friday night plans won’t be completely ruined by waiting until the end of a meal to return a phone call. And that’s the way it is.

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Title: More electronic etiquette needed | Author: Ryan Ulrich | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2005-05-25 | Internal ID: 4556