Give good text

I’ve had no less than four friends recently lament to me about the same complaint. One being She Does The City’s big boss lady herself, and the other lives all the way across the pond in Ireland, suggesting etiquette blunders span international borders. So here it goes (Karen Cleveland: breaking issues and breaking journalism. Right? No? Ok then. Shrug. Anyways.)

The issue at hand is poor cell phone use. If its ubiquity is any indication, it is the new gum chomping.

We’re all busy. In a culture where multitasking trumps and we’re always a text, tweet, bbm or email from others, it’s hard not to be connected all the time. In fact, there are great things about being connected. What’s damaging is that it sends a message to the people around you that whatever you’re attending to on the other end of your iPhone or Blackberry is more important than them – that you’re not fully present in their company. That you have better things to do.

Imagine if that side conversation was a real in-the-flesh one: would you brazenly turn your back on your company and start a separate conversation with someone else?

Texting or taking a call when your attention is otherwise commanded (in a meeting, over a drink or meal, a movie, etc.) is a big fuck you to the people you’re with. And really, if you succeed in ticking off all the people you hang out with, you might find yourself with no one texting you, at all.

(First published on She Does the City, January 2011)