Last May, my life changed forever. How? I received a smartphone for my birthday. I went from having one of the most retro, pay-as-you-go, so-plastic-it-looks-like-a-toy-for-a-child-under-three phones, to the reigning Cleopatra of the telecoms world at the time. Obviously, I was overjoyed, but [stage whisper] I wasn’t overly fussed about it – at first. As far as phones went, it seemed like a lot of hard work. Yet my quick switch to smartphone-savvy didn’t take long. A couple of weeks on, from the moment I realised I could simply Skype my sister back home and within seconds hold her tiny face in my palm (because the screen is smaller than her face; not because she has a particularly tiny face, you understand), the opportunities a smartphone offer its owner hit me like a tonne of ’80s-era brick phones.
So yes, I love my smartphone. But, like any relationship, I make sure my feelings for it don’t interfere with other friendships in my life. You see, one slightly less appealing feature of the smartphone is that it seems to bring out rudeness in certain people. Worst of all, this impoliteness is fast becoming culturally acceptable in Dubai.
Take a good friend of mine, who, for argument’s sake, we’ll call Sarah (because that’s her name). Caring, considerate, compassionate, chatty: the moment she bought a smartphone she’d miss entire conversations in favour of Angry Birds or Tetris, and I’d be left wondering if her stern face indicated she was an angry bird herself.
And Sarah’s certainly not the only person who seems to have lost all sense of etiquette since acquiring a smartphone. There are the dinner-table Tweeters (didn’t your mother ever teach you not to use social media at the table?), the behind-the-wheel callers (we all know this is wrong, and yet it’s impossible to avoid them every time we’re on Sheikh Zayed Road), the cash-register double-taskers (there’s a queue behind you, buddy!) and, the worst, or perhaps, the weirdest, the toilet tapper: yes, we can hear you composing that epic message in the cubicle next door, you know…
But the rules of smartphone etiquette don’t stop at knowing when, and, more importantly, when not, to use it: there’s also a lot of decorum involved in the way we use our phones. Take ‘group chats’, for example: don’t release personal information to ten people’s phones when you don’t know half of the numbers you’re chatting to; and don’t assume we’re all interested in the same conversation, anyway. Similarly, don’t let your persistent predictive text get the better of your messages (an ‘xxx’ can too easily become a ‘zzz’ – not what a loved one wants to read). And, this is one for your own benefit, if you’re heading to the front of a hot-ticket gig: spend at least some of the show watching it with your own eyes, rather than videoing it (case in point: myself at Madonna). Yes, smartphones are certainly smart. But there are smarter ways to use them, too.
Becky is our editor. If you managed to read this column while simultaneously using your smartphone, she will actually be quite impressed.