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BlackBerry Manners And the Rising Popularity of the Lack Thereof

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A friend of mine has terrible BlackBerry etiquette. When I’m talking to him and he gets a message, he checks it immediately without warning or excusing himself. He continues the nodding and the ‘uh-huh’s, and ‘ok’s, but I know he’s not really listening. I know because I’ve tested him on many occasions. On one such occasion I threw a request for a large sum of money into what I was saying. He predictably answered with his usual ok. He settled for buying me lunch.

With the increasing popularity of smartphones, people are giving in to the urge to check email, Twitter, Facebook and sports scores, among other things at inappropriate times. But who decides what time is an inappropriate time?

Let’s take meetings as an example. Traditionalists would tell you that any use of a BlackBerry in a meeting would be as tactless as dancing naked on the boardroom table. On the other hand, Techno-evangelists would argue that not answering important texts and emails instantly can be bad for business.

Some organizations have banned BlackBerrys in meetings altogether. Others encourage people to bring them for reasons like: reduced paper usage, increased in-meeting creativity and relaxed atmosphere. Most companies do not have rules on BlackBerrys in meetings. This means employees are left to figure out for themselves what is permitted. Dangerous territory if you ask me.

Alex Williams of the New York Times explains how some people have interpreted BlackBerry etiquette.

To Jason Chan, a digital-strategy consultant in Manhattan, different rules apply for in-house meetings (where checking BlackBerrys seems an expression of informal collegiality) and those with clients, where the habit is likely to offend. There is safety in numbers, he added in an e-mail message: “The acceptability of checking devices is proportional to the number of people attending the meeting. The more people there are, the less noticeable your typing will be.”

Beyond practical considerations, there is also the issue of image. In many professional circles, where connections are power, making a show of reaching out to those connections even as co-workers are presenting a spreadsheet presentation seems to have become a kind of workplace boast.

Mr. Brotherton, the consultant, wrote in an e-mail message that it was customary now for professionals to lay BlackBerrys or iPhones on a conference table before a meeting — like gunfighters placing their Colt revolvers on the card tables in a saloon. “It’s a not-so-subtle way of signaling ‘I’m connected. I’m busy. I’m important. And if this meeting doesn’t hold my interest, I’ve got 10 other things I can do instead.’ ”

So which side do you take? Traditionalist or Techno-evangelist?

Source: NY Times

23 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. It’s not just Blackberry users. It seems that all smartphone users are losing their manners. And it’s not just texting. I’ve seen people talking on the phone in line at the supermarket actually make the cashier wait while they continued talking.

    • You’re right. Of course this applies to all smartphone users. The disregard for traditional manners happens more with BlackBerry users because of real-time push notifications IMO.

      • I think that this is not just circumscribed to smarphones. People abusing their mobile phones is a pretty common thing. I hate with a passion when in a meeting someone answers his phone. And don’t give me the “it’s important” excuse. 99% of the times it’s just something you can handle later.

        I put on silent whenever I enter a meeting and after going out I answer everything that was missed.

  2. My approach is that the call/message on the phone should be treated as if it were another human being. Consider:
    If you were in the middle of talking to someone and someone else walked by, would you simply start talking to that other person without excusing yourself? Certainly not. But for some reason, calls/messages are assumed to be so important that people can just stop what they’re doing and take the call/message without batting an eyelash.
    Unfortunately, most of these issues probably stem from our desire for self-importance. It makes us feel so important to have to jump out of a real conversation to take a call/message. If our respect for other human beings took precedence, we wouldn’t have this problem.
    And don’t even get me started about those engaged in prayer – talking to God, no less – who seem to think that calls and messages are more important.

    • I think that’s an excellent approach. It makes all the difference when you’re talking to someone and they get a call if they excuse themselves or even ask permission to take the call. Unfortunately this is becoming a rare occurrence. Its even better to ignore the phone/message altogether since the person you’re physically with should always take precedence.

    • Well put. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, although I try my best not to show such ill manners. I’m sure if others thought of calls/texts that way they’d be less likely to be so rude.

      • There are so many people that simply don’t think about what they’re actually doing. Cell phones are a relatively new technology and many people don’t realize how rude they’re being.

        Think about before cell phones were everywhere. When you got a call on your land line at home, you usually stopped what you were doing and answered it. I’ll speak for myself and say I did (and still do) that most of the time.

        Now that we have feature phones and smartphones attached to almost everyone, and we have much more than just phone calls coming in, many people have lost respect for others physically in their presence.

        If you have to take a call or answer a message immediately (which is rare IMO unless you’re a professional whose career depends on it), politely excuse yourself and go ahead. Most of the time, the world will not end if we don’t respond to our friend asking how dinner was last night.

  3. Too many times in public places, I hear people telling their private life, while talking on the cell phone. If I receive a call in a public place or at work, I use the TexyBack app on the BlackBerry to end the call and simultaneously send them a text that I will call them back later on.

    • Ah yes, the loud look-at-me-I-have-a-phone-and-I’m-important person. I saw one of those guys get off a bus the other day. He had an iPhone with his headphones in and was clearly talking to someone because he was holding the iPhone up to his mouth. It looked quite ridiculous. He was very animated and I could tell he was talking way too loud. I bet everyone else on the bus was happy to see him go.

  4. I will admit I have can’t ignore a vibration or a flashing red light coming from my phone. I need to check it right away. I have a friend who on several occasions has seen that I was forgetting my phone in my car and didn’t bother telling me that I was forgetting it. But he just got a his first blackberry (torch) and he has become just as bad as me…

  5. That’s what the WP 7 Campaign was about 😀 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHlN21ebeak

    I really love this spot!

  6. Those ads backfired on WP7, if you ask me. When my wife first saw it, she asked me what phone were all the people on, that wouldn’t get off. She said that she wanted that one. I told her she had one. She just laughed. I try to be respectful of my meetings or conversations, and stay off of my phone, whether it rings or buzzes.

  7. It’s the people who can’t do both that ruin it for the rest of us. The funny thing is that those people KNOW they can’t pay attention and use their phone at the same time yet they insist on trying.

  8. In my mind, BlackBerry should be totally OFF in all meetings or don’t bother coming to the meeting. And don’t get me started on phone use while driving…

    • Yeah, but if you get the email from a new employer requesting more information to get a new job that you’ve always wanted, things change.
      It’s annoying…yes, it bothers….usually, it’s helpful…always.
      P.S.: What helps you might hurt sometimes…hehehe :)

    • I don’t think it needs to be off, but I generally like to change the profile before I go into a meeting. I totally agree about the phone and driving. It’s Bluetooth all the way for me. I also have DriveSafe.ly installed.

  9. i think the blackberry prayer will always be a problem in board rooms.

    When I am with business associates I keep it in my pocket until the proper time or break to check in on it.

  10. lol, i cannot have any input into this forum because I an double standard in this… I think of it as “I can, you cant” lol

  11. I suppose this is the need the Blackberry Watch is supposed to fill. You’d be able to check your messages without being disruptive. Then you could always excuse yourself if it is something really important. The problem would then be what people consider important.

  12. I use the Memos app to take notes in most meetings, and I change the profile to Vibrate when I go into a meeting anyway. I ignore calls, but I am guilty of occasionally replying to or composing emails while in the meeting, but I do it in pieces so that I can still pay attention to the meeting itself.

    I’m an IT consultant, and 99% of my client communication is done electronically. If a customer has a problem, the first thing they do is email me, and if I were to ignore emails in meetings, I would lose customers; you won’t convince me that smartphones in meetings are rude 😉

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