Digital etiquette: ‘What is wanted?’

etiquetteMobile technology has all but thrown etiquette out the door. Mobile phones have become as common at the family dinner table as salt shakers and business people meet face-to-face while simultaneously meeting with dozens of other people by phone and text.

It all seems rude to me. Is no one worth receiving undivided attention anymore? 

When mobile technology first came onto the scene years ago, it would incense me when someone would spend all their time on their mobile phone while with me. But lately, I’ve accepted it as perfectly normal. In fact, I even do it!

That’s not good.

An article in The New York Times called Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette made me stop and reflect on how mobile technology has redefined our standards. But it turns out, mobile technology isn’t the first communication technology to send etiquette experts reeling. When the telephone was invented in the 1870s, people didn’t know how to greet a caller.

Alexander Graham Bell suggested people say “Ahoy!” while others suggested, “What is wanted?” Eventually “Hello” won out.

For a long time, “Hello” properly set the tone for the way we interacted on the phone. We could talk on the phone for hours, uninterrupted and focused on the conversation at hand.  No one was in  hurry.

But today, I wonder if “What is wanted?” is the most appropriate greeting. In fact, when someone calls you instead of texting you these days, you may as well say “What is wanted?” because that’s probably what you’re thinking. “Sheesh, she couldn’t have texted me instead of calling me? I’m busy! Very busy. I have no time for phone calls … unless you are someone important and then I will interrupt whatever face-to-face conversation I am having to talk with you … and you can take your time because I’m here for you, but I know you’re busy and probably can’t take the time to talk to me for very long.”

Do you feel that mobile technology needs some stringent regulation related to etiquette? Do you ever feel like you aren’t good enough for someone’s undivided attention? 

Bridget Ingebrigtsen

Bridget Ingebrigtsen owns Write On Command, a company that provides writing and editing services to businesses and not-for-profits. Bridget describes her six-year stint as Anchor Advisors' writer/editor as being "mutually beneficial" -- she helps Anchor Advisors keep their written projects on track and Anchor Advisors helps her keep her business on track. When she's not running her business, Bridget is running after her four children, two dogs and the latest in entertainment news. Connect with Bridget on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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