The advent of personalized devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has resulted in some noticeable culture changes. It’s almost as if these devices have allowed for us to have too much customization resulting in selfish and self-absorbed behavior. We’re often too immersed in our own tech bubbles, oblivious to how we are impacting those around us. This has ultimately led to some strange changes to our behavior, especially in public settings.
On some level, it’s resulted in a real decline of manners and civilities. One time on the subway I observed a woman practicing her singing along to an audible beat coming from her phone. I watched her in fascination as she went through the same passage repeatedly without a hint of self-consciousness that others were listening in. She was acting uninhibited as though she were by herself in a practice room, or maybe in the shower. I’m not sure if she persisted because she really didn’t care if she was bothering other people, or if maybe she secretly wanted to be “discovered.”
I’ve been taking public transit for decades. And to be fair, subway etiquette has always been questionable. While listening to a radio program about this topic recently, I was surprised to hear so many stories of people witnessing other passengers clipping their finger and toe nails on public transit, along with all kinds of other horrible things. People get so absorbed and zombie-like with their devices that they become even less aware of their surroundings, resulting in even more unacceptable behavior in public.
For the last several months I’ve been working at a college campus. I’m constantly surprised at how many students I hear answering phone calls and continuing conversations while they’re in the bathroom stalls! Yuck. Even worse, the students emerge from the stalls, phone attached to one ear, without even a glance around, or a hint of self-consciousness that they’re in a shared area. It’s as if they don’t even notice their behavior. Maybe I’m old fashioned about this, but I don’t answer phone calls when I’m in the bathroom. And that applies even more strongly when I’m in a public, or shared, bathroom.
I remember when cell phones first started to become popular how self-conscious we all felt about answering phone calls in public. And now it’s become the new “norm.”