admin Janelle Bostock is the Owner and Managing Director of Women's Network Australia T: 1800 052 476. WNA is the National Membership based organisation for entrepreneurial, micro and small business women to assist them to reach their full potential, and provides hands-on business networking opportunities. Make connections, network well and show others how to do it – surround yourself with balcony people!

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WNA Blog Home

Mobile Phones – Social Faux Pas

October 29, 2012 | admin

Are you agressive or passive? It's about finding the middle ground when communicating.

How do you feel about sharing a table or conversation with people who for whatever reason don’t seem to be able to disconnect themselves from their mobile devices?

Call me a dinosaur if you want, but I find it really annoying!  I have even encountered situations where guests at the table have been sending text messages to each other opposed to participating in the conversation.   What on earth has happened to manners and social etiquette?

I don’t know how you feel, but I call people on it now and simply avoid ever meeting with them in the future.  It’s not rocket science is it? Building lasting, meaningful or deep relationships requires you to be really present at the table – not just in body.

And it appears I am not on my own with this issue. A recent study of mobile phones and their usage found that having a mobile phone visible during a conversation caused people to feel less positive and connected towards the person they were chatting to. The very presence of a mobile phone automatically triggers thoughts about a wider social network, reducing the level of empathy and understanding in face-to-face conversations.

And a mobile phone anywhere to be seen during a romantic dinner – now that is a serious social faux pas.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

  • Wordsmith

    Well, I could call you Dorothy but (thankfully) I’ve never seen you dressed in green with large yellow polka dots so I reckon I’ll stick with Lynette…

    And I’m with you 100% Lynette – I also find that I don’t have much inclination to re-connect with people who cannot disconnect from their mobile phones and have a proper face-to-face conversation when they are in company.

    I don’t think too many people like to feel that they are unimportant and not worth talking to or spending time with when they have set aside time to connect with someone (or a group of people) in person – and that is how I feel when someone chooses to answer mobile phone calls and reply to text messages or even worse, make phone calls and send messages. And surprisingly enough, some people will do this repeatedly in a short period of time.

    Yes, you have probably picked up that I find it very annoying too!

  • Sally

    Absolutely agree. I even have family members who do this when I have arranged to meet them for a coffee. What do they expect me to do while they entertain themselves online? Makes me think, “Hmm, I should have stayed home rather than making the effort to come and meet you.” If it’s a business situation, yes, you are making a very poor impression. It’s fine to use your smart phone while you are waiting for someone to arrive, but put it away as soon as the person gets there. Or even at a social/business function you *could* use it in the room if desperate….Say if you are alone in a corner and feel awkward and your overtures have been rejected (who hasn’t occasionally pretended to check their messages as a ruse to look busy?). But you have to still seem open and interested and if anyone initiates conversation or even stands next to you, immediately ditch the phone!

  • Hello Lynette

    I think times are changing. Once, I would have said I would have been disturbed if when delivering a presentation the audience were constantly on their mobile devices. Now, I see it as a compliment if individuals are using social media to extend the audience of a speaker. Social media is an important communication tool, which has very powerful reach.

    Furthermore, a ‘typical’ workday of 9.00 – 5.00 no longer exists in today’s fast-paced environment. We have tools that enable us to be connected and responsive 24/7 and many consumers/ clients expect a response time frame that aligns with modern technology.

    Whilst I agree that tools must be in place to manage our connectivity, I do not believe it can be ignored. Relationships now have the capacity to develop and foster in both the online and offline environment and individuals need to determine the correct mix for them and their business.

    Personally, I enjoy the benefits that technology brings to my professional and personal relationships however I also understand the need to display courtesy to my host or companions and would adjust my own behaviour (to a reasonable extent) to consider the needs of others.

  • Paul Humphreys

    Hi Lynette,

    You make a very good point, and it resonates with me a lot!


    Paul 🙂

  • Dene

    Hi Lynette,
    I saw your message on the way home on the train and couldn’t wait to get home to throw my two cents into the ring. I agree with you 1000000%. Well maybe I’m exaggerating a little here. I find it completing rude and showing lack of respect to me when people do this. Funny I was just speaking to my husband about the same thing this morning. I recently went to a networking group social meeting which I was attending for the first time and yes some of the people were talking to me as they were looking down at their mobile sending a text message. Needless to say after having this happen by a few other people and observing it happening throughout the group, I decided that it wasn’t a good fit for me. Even funnier, when I excused myself, I actually was quite rude and left saying “well I can clearly see that your are busy with your mobile rather than speaking with me, so I will take my leave”. The response (without even looking up from the mobile), ok thanks for coming. Clearly this person not only had no interest in connecting with the people around her, but wasn’t even listening to what was being said. I will now get off my soapbox!!!

  • I agree completely Karan with the use of social media etc during presentation situations. It has opened and entirely new world for all of us and I too enjoy the technology advancements, however I was not referring to a presentation situation. I was referring to one-on-one meetings or being at a dinner table and guests being on their mobile phones, texting – not paying attention to the person or people they are supposed to be spending time with. It makes people feel distanced and ignored and the recent report backs this up. However it is about making decisions about who you spend time with and after a few sessions with those who make you feel as though you are doing coffee or a meal with them and their 2,000 friends the decision becomes easier for most of us. – Lynette

  • Wendy

    Absolutely agree with this total lack of social etiquette Lynette. It shows there communication skills are immature and rude to others, and I would certainly embarrass them with a direct comment to jolt their bad manners….

  • Heather Maloney

    I completely agree Lynette. You can’t network if you are concentrating on your mobile phone. It’s very interesting to hear about the study on the way people feel just seeing the mobile phones… and I must admit that I have had an uneasy feeling that you’re not really a priority when you see the phone present during a meeting. It feels like you have to talk fast to keep their attention from the waiting phone!

  • hmaloney

    I completely agree Lynette. You can’t network if you are concentrating on your mobile phone. It’s very interesting to hear about the study on the way people feel just seeing the mobile phones… and I must admit that I have had an uneasy feeling that you’re not really a priority when you see the phone present during a meeting. It feels like you have to talk fast to keep their attention from the waiting phone!

  • Ruby

    I agree with both Lynette and Karan (below); certainly in a face to face situation, ditch the phone or at least have the courtesy to excuse yourself if urgent, move away slightly to tend to the request/issue but keep it brief! As Karan says, however, in a meeting situation, phones/tablets are often a business tool right then and there – I was at a presentation recently where 20 staff members and their devices were busily tweeting all information from the meeting to their affiliate organisations; a very important and necessary aspect of the meeting overall. Having said all that, at the recent High Tea at Sydney’s Four Season’s Hotel, it was a breath of fresh air to see hundreds of women engaging in conversation, sharing tea or a glass of bubbly and ‘enjoying’ life, rather than been glued to their phones with a furrowed expression on their face!

  • I agree totally Karan the use of social media etc. during presentation situations. It’s opened and entirely new world for all of us to share information and I too enjoy the technology advancements. However in this case I was not referring to making presentations to a group. I was referring to one-on-one interactions and the use of mobile phones during those meetings or dinners. Most people feel distanced from a guest who can’t extract themselves from their mobile device and the report backs this up. But in the end it is about making decisions as to who you spend time with and after a few sessions with those who make you feel as though you are doing coffee or a meal with them and their 2,000 closest friends the decision becomes easier for most of us.

  • Sue Fitcher

    I totally agree with all comments to date. It is incredibly rude; basically it’s having two conversations at once which sends an obvious message to the person you are sitting alongside that they are not a priority. Professionally, it’s downright stupid.

    I sat at a dinner table with my husband one night while he texted for about 10 minutes. The waiter approached us to ask if we were ready to order. I simply replied politely that I was waiting for my husband to join me. The mobile phone disappeared and we had a lovely evening.

  • Shari

    My PhD research investigated the psychological factors influencing young people’s (15 – 25) use of mobile phones. What I found really interesting (and sad in a way) is the sense of belonging and self-worth that many people place on being able to be in constant contact with others. So the challenge is to really encourage people to appreciate connecting with a smaller number of people and to focus on the ones they are with rather than to get self-esteem and self-worth from larger social networks. This is not easy these days when so many people value having a large number of ‘friends’ on facebook etc.

  • HelenO

    I enjoyed the blog and agree, I see it often when I am out and I have watched senior managers in government agencies do a similar thing, in meetings they txt each other across the table and check and respond to their email, I thought that was why they had EA’s! Truly one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person is our full and undivided attention and it is free, perhaps if we did that more often people would feel less inclined to reach for the phone.

  • Agree with all those comments — it’s just plain rude! If something is worth doing (meeting with someone), then do it properly.

    The technology we have is today’s version of sitting at a table, talking with someone, but checking out every single person as they walk past, “in case they’re more interesting”. What a message to send! “You’re important…but if I see someone more important, I’ll be off to talk to them instead, that okay with you?”!

    Seriously, it’s like being at a party as a teenager….

    iPhones, iPads, etc. are great tools; use them properly!

  • Shari’s research is also interesting (and sad, as she notes).

    I hear kids talking about “who has more friends” on their “friend tree” in Moshi Monsters (a game site for children). A lovely friend’s son was really keen to show me his game site (I forget exactly which one it was), and really proudly showed me all his “friends” in his contacts page.

    My question to any kid when they show stuff like this is “does so-and-so have a dog?”. They don’t know because they don’t know them!

    My thoughts are that their sense of self worth is shot. Perhaps the issues among the cohort Shari studied are not so different from those who feel a constant need to check their phones/emails? And it’s easier to “hide” behind being popular or important with such technologies than it is to risk rejection or someone thinking you’re “silly” by actually engaging in conversation with them?

  • michael

    Great article Lynette and I must remember to hide my mobile next time I am wanting to impress.