Use Your Phone To Not Look At Your Phone


Tuesday, 31 August 2010 at 5:40 am Pacific USA Time.

I've seen a lot of posts lately from people who want to remind others how impolite it is to keep pulling out your cell phone or messing with your phone when you're supposed to be spending quality time with someone else… like at meals, especially meals out.

We live in an instant gratification world. We knew this, but everything around us reminds me of this. When I don't answer email within a few hours, I've literally had people write back and ask if I'm still in business. Really? That's all the time you gave me? There is a Blackberry commercial where a woman talks about how if she sends you a BBM (Blackberry Message), she knows you got it, even if you don't respond… well, why didn't you respond! I guess she didn't realise not everybody wants to write her back that second.

This was my biggest problem when I had the Palm Pre from July 2009 – Nov 2009. Out of the box, it made one sound that a friend said sounded like the Law and Order thundersheety gavel thing. It took me months, but I finally noticed I was the WORST person to hang out with. Every time that phone went BONK BONK, I pulled it out because it could be anything… text mesage, email, tweet, low battery alert, voicemail. I was constantly looking at my phone. I put in some hacks that eventually gave me some more sound options, but I still had to look at the phone a LOT to know what it was trying to notify me of.

So what can we do to put the politeness and the personal connection back into the times when we should be connecting with someone sitting right there? I say that if you're not just going to turn off your phone or choose to ignore anything it could do, use your phone to not look at your phone. Huh?

I have an Android phone. Just about every app I have asks me if I want to pick a notification sound just for that app. Do that. Make each app a different sound, and make it a sound you'll remember. I edit all my sound samples so they're meaningful bits of songs rather than blips and squeaks. I've got an XTC song going off for when the twitter app sees a new mention of me. Not worth looking at while having dinner with someone. I have an app called Ringo Lite that lets me pick different text message sounds. If I'm out of town, and "Suzie Safety" by Sparks goes off, that's a text from my pet sitter… I need to look at that.

I use an app called K9 email rather than the default email. I am polling 5 accounts every minute. Each account makes a different sound. I can choose to look at the phone or not based on which account just got an email. My 5th email account is for my boyfriend. He gets his own sound. :) When K9 does rules, I'm going to make a sound just for Facebook notifications, which come into my personal email account, so that they are easier to ignore OR if I'm expecting an important reply I think will come via Facebook, maybe in that moment, that sound is important.

Most phones have features like this. Most will let you choose different tones for different apps, accounts, and people. Use that. And then create priorities. If we're out, and I'm hoping our focus is on each other, let's only look at our phones if we think the sound is something really important. Everything else can wait.

I'm old enough to remember when people didn't have cell phones. You probably remember that too… how you had to wait for someone to be at home or work to reach them. And somehow, you lived without instant contact. You probably rmember when not every had email or not everybody checked it all day. It'll be OK if someone gets back to you in hours or a day. Let's dial our craziness down a bit. :)


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Categories: Just An Observation

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