New Rules Of Engagement
Published Apr 2015
The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity has been a great code to adhere to when it comes to engaging with others for millennia. However, even the simple rule of treating others the way you would like others to treat you has proven difficult for society to follow, and many confuse “an eye for an eye” as a product of the Golden Rule, when in fact it is the cautionary form that gives us the Silver Rule. As time progresses and our technologies continue to develop, creating time for us to do more with our daily lives than those who grew up in the ‘40s, the rules of engagement get even more complicated. Less than fifty years ago, as a child you would learn how to read and write with penmanship classes coupled with proper etiquette training. Table manners were not a suggestion, and everyone knew how to interact with elders. In contrast, hardly anyone eats at the table anymore and if they do, smartphones and headphones accompany the kids. Today we text message our parents using emojis and abbreviations one historically wouldn’t dare use with one’s elders. At this point, nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” is all that makes the idea of past etiquette so endearing, for we no longer live in such a time. We live in the robotic age, where almost everything we do is digitally automated. We need a new “proper.” The only thing is, we also went through decades of going against “the man” and no one dare tell us what to do. We make our own rules, etc. We get it. You didn’t grow up under a rock... But even in this chaotic personalized “ME” world, order in the chaos is something we crave. So where does this leave us? A series of acceptable norms of course—the new rules of engagement in a technologically driven world. Let us start with phones. No matter how much you hate it, busy people doing busy business things will always have their smartphone near. They may even put it face-down just so they can sense vibrations. (Tip: if you must have your phone on the table, always place it screen-facing down.) It isn’t that you are not important, perhaps they will need that slate of glass to look up information during their time with you. It is absolutely rude to have earphones plugged in while having a conversation with other people; at least have enough respect to unlatch one ear plug. Friends are more forgiving (or should be) when it comes to mobile interactions, especially when the friend is single and probably looking for a date. Respect is always key, as you can always ask permission to use your phone if necessary. Pedestrians using phones at crosswalks, sidewalks, or walkways of any kind should be cautious as they might be walking at a glacial pace, delaying the people behind them as they type sweet nothings to their twitter followers. Go ahead, take a selfie, but don’t in any circumstance block anyone from walking past. YOU ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. No, really! No matter what your mother said. Never be on a call while purchasing anything. That is definitely looked down upon. Place the call on hold or pretend no one is there in order not to offend those hardworking people giving you their full attention even though you’re being a total douche. When it comes to live shows, unless the performer says “Light Up your phones” for effect, do not hold your phone up for an extended amount of time recording the performance. You’d miss out on the experience and very easily annoy the people behind you being blocked by your glaring screen! Limit video recordings of shows (when allowed) to 20 second captures. You are there to be in the moment and have fun, not make a documentary. Most of these rules apply for tablets as well, although you really should be using tablets on your own time, or at work meetings. It is not a social item. "be cordial, follow the golden rule and be aware" The dawn of the Smartwatch is here with Apple Watch now strapped on wrists amongst us. Hopefully this will alleviate the incredible disrespect our phones have allowed us to get away with. Simply glance at notifications when in meetings and even go out of your way to let people know it’s a smartwatch—not just a watch you are so busy looking at because you’re signaling you have to be somewhere else and that their company is unbearable. It isn’t hard to be respectful when you disclose your intentions. Remember the incident with the Google-Glass-wearing woman at a San Francisco bar? Let me refresh your memory... Last year in February, a tech writer by the name of Sarah Slocum went viral for having been allegedly attacked at a bar for wearing Google Glass. (The term Glasshole, was coined shortly thereafter). The regulars at this neighborhood bar knew what the gadget was about and didn’t feel like being video recorded while they enjoyed a pint at their local watering hole. Slocum was confronted by several people and later released her recording of people during the incident. The issue with this is that even though you are in public, some people treasure their right to privacy. As a respectful person you should never intentionally record other people who don’t agree to it—out of common decency and not by the heavy hand of the law. Google Glass has since been tainted with the stigma of this story, and yet more and more people walk around with Go-Pros and other cameras strapped to their bodies, recording your every move for no purpose whatsoever, or to record their own life through the lens. Today, more video products are hitting the market—one in particular records your entire life and puts it in a well-organized library with facial recognition and timestamp/geo-mapping accuracy: the Lifelogger. It looks like a Bluetooth headset wrapped around your skull. It has incredible practical uses and potential beyond today’s technological capabilities. You may now replay that argument you had with your spouse to see who really started it. You can relive the moment of your first born’s first word, or replay to the cops that time someone stole your phone right out of your hands at a bus stop. It can do amazing things, but it can also invade a stranger’s personal space. It sucks, we know. But guess what? You’re already being recorded everywhere you go. And there is nothing you can do about it... Well, in truth there is something you can do—don’t be that guy! Have the good graces to let your family and friends know if they don’t want to be part of your Life-logging. Whether it is because they are uncomfortable being video recorded, experiencing excruciatingly bad hair days, or just plain hate being around you, it should be up to them to opt in or out. No one wants to be captured at their worst, especially while doing something unappealing or even illegal. Social media does not need a new guideline for it all remains the same— be cordial, follow the golden rule and be aware of ramifications of blasting your private life on the forever-archiving world of the Internet. It isn’t just tech that disrupts traditional etiquette rules for example the arrival of “Vaping” or E-cigs. One would think the same rules for traditional carbon-monoxide spewing cigs would apply here but many early adopters to the E-cig vilify their actions by saying it is harmless and made of vapor. The thing is, there has not been extensive studies around this subject and just puffing on your E-cig at a restaurant, a bar, cafe, or someone else’s house is still rude. Ask first! You can feel free to do whatever you like at home. Look on the bright side, because of all the technological advancements, we can now come up with a new interaction—The “no tech zone” type of interaction. Where you can say, do, and act the way you want to with the people you care about most without the feeling of being watched. It will be our generation’s “confessional.” 10 years from now, people will be walking around with masks on a daily basis just to get out of plain sight. It will be a masquerade ball everyday. What a world that will be!