Why You Should Develop Good Phone Manners

Let’s be honest. You don’t like to watch or listen to people blow their nose. The inverse is also true — people don’t want to see or hear you blow your nose either. This is especially the case at meals. But when we really need to blow our nose, we better do it, no matter when and where we are, because things can get ugly fast. It’s just important than we take care of our business with good manners.

While someone is blowing his or her nose, he or she must briefly disconnect from others to take care of themselves. When someone goes to blow their nose, attention is taken away from conversation and put towards the tissue . We all know it’s just decent manners to spare each from witnessing nose-blowing…unless it’s urgent.

Phone Checking Should Be Treated The Same Way

Maybe it’s time that we start thinking of checking our phones like the “new” blowing our nose. If we look up from our own smartphones long enough when we are in public spaces, we will see many folks with their heads down and eyes glued to their devices. A recent survey found that the average American checks his or her phone around 80 times per day, with some people checking their phones over 300 times per day. Americans typically spend about 3 hours and 35 minutes per day on mobile devices.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 90% of teens view overuse of screens as a problem, with 60% viewing it as a major problem. Using what’s called “persuasive design,” smartphones and their various apps are made to be addictive (or at least habit-forming).

Phone Checking As Bad Manners

Though the sky isn’t falling, I’d have to agree with the surveyed teens; we should be more concerned about our phone use. Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are not skyrocketing, but they have been increasing in recent years. These stats on mental health coincide with the increased use of smartphones, and especially hold true for young people.

Now, just because some measures of mental disorder and smartphone use are correlated, does not necessarily mean that mobile devices are directly causing greater mental health problems at a societal level. Measuring well-being is complicated and many variables are involved. Still, there are many studies that suggest too much time on screens can be detrimental to well-being.

Why would this be?

Well, while we check our devices, we are disconnecting from the people around us. In fact, there is research that the mere presence of a cell phone, even when silenced, diminishes the quality of in-person social interactions. In other words, checking your phone in the presence of others is bad manners.

Studies indicate that much of our happiness, health, and longevity are related to the quality, frequency, and strength of our in-person social relationships.

“Why does this matter?, and “what does this have to do with smartphones and nose-blowing?”, you might ask.

Everything!

We’re Out Of Sync With Our Evolutionary Heritage

We must remember that historically, all our social interactions took place in-person. Homo sapiens have existed for approximately 300,000 years, with most of this time spent in small hunter-gatherer, nomadic tribes of around 100-150 people. Human communities didn’t develop until about 10,000-15,000 years ago, and written language didn’t emerge until about 5,000 years ago.

From an evolutionary standpoint, there is no such thing as a “digital native.” Our brains evolved to interact with one another in-person. When viewed from this long-term perspective, we are all digital immigrants.

According to the idea of evolutionary mismatch, when we live in a way incongruent with our evolutionary heritage, we will pay a price in terms of our health and well-being. For instance, we didn’t evolve to eat the highly processed, salty, sugary, fatty foods that we now eat (nor in such quantities). This explains, at least in part, why there is an obesity epidemic in America.

The Takeaway

It’s time that we reframe how we view our phones because we are going to pay a price in terms of our happiness if we allow them to disrupt our in-person relationships too much. Right now, we are doing the digital equivalent of blowing our noses in front of one another… a lot. While it’s difficult to draw a red line on just what “too much” is, one can make a strong argument that we are already there. Just as it’s a bit rude to blow our nose in front of others (unless we really need to), we need to view checking our phones in the presence of others the same way. Phones are a merely tool to be used and then kept silenced and out of sight.

We mustn’t lose sight of the reality that our greatest happiness is found in our in-person social relationships. Our focused attention on these in-person relationships is what nourishes them. This is how Mother Nature “designed” us. We cannot allow our cell phone use to disrupt our in-person relationships any longer. So, the next time you’re tempted to check your phone in public, you should ask yourself, “Do I really need to blow my nose right now?” And for goodness sake, try not to check your phone at meals – it’s kinda gross!

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