Human behavior is evolving right in front of our phones.
A simple stroll down a semi-busy street offers a glorious opportunity to witness how we are growing to care less about the person next to us.
The way I see it, the digital reality on the streets gives you three choices for how to adjust:
- Act like a judgmental curmudgeon and snarl at every stranger whose digital behavior inconveniences you. Be just as mindless with your phone.
- Act like a judgmental curmudgeon. Use a flip phone to avoid angering the digital etiquette police.
- Learn to acceptance and embrace modern digital behavior in public. Throw your existing standards for street etiquette out the window.
After much reflection and work on myself, I have managed to evolve from #1 to #3, only because I realized the price I payed for getting annoyed by every inconsiderate phone user.
Over the course of my evolution, I’ve identified some particularly repetitive and humorous encounters I experienced during my commute to and from Manhattan. This post was a note on my phone that I kept adding to.
I was also inspired to write this post based on the anticipation of a whacky future of public digital behavior when augmented reality devices dominate our streets and further change the way we relate to one another as strangers.
Some day the disruptive behavior of digitally preoccupied pedestrians will pale in comparison to the antics of the matrix-like digital warrior who has tangled wires connecting from his butt to his phone.
Until then we can only laugh at how the world we live in changing faster than we can keep up with.
Here are 1o freshly coined digital experiences that represent our new reality.
10 New Names for Digital Street Etiquette Encounters
1. The Dueling Screen Tango
The experience of walking down the street, minding your digital business with your face in your screen, when suddenly a screen-immersed stranger nearly crashes into you. Standing nose to nose, you begin an awkward dance together to figure out who should move out of the way and in which direction.
2. The Video Narcissist
Someone who believes it’s perfectly acceptable to blast his random youtube video (that doesn’t contain music, but some random stuff that seems like it has no value) at the highest volume possible, despite being in an enclosed space like a subway car or restaurant. The people around him wish he’d look up so they can throw contorted faces of disapproval his way, but he doesn’t give a shit.
3. The Video Narcissist Police
The stranger who believes it’s important to scold the video narcissist to teach him a lesson. Hopefully, this person isn’t you and you’re the observer who says, “Thank God someone said something to that idiot.” I’m certain that members of the Video Narcissist Police Force are prone to high blood pressure, anger management difficulty and depression. Admittedly, it’s funny to watch this encounter.
4. Wi-Fi Withdrawal Syndrome
The digital consumer who becomes noticeably anxious and uneasy when she can’t get a Wi-Fi signal or when she learns that an establishment has no Wi-Fi. Of course, it can be frustrating when you can’t find a Wifi signal anywhere, but some people take it to the next level by experiencing a Wifi-less moment as Armageddon.
5. The Flip Phone Judge
The smartphone user who feels compelled to share his bewilderment with a stranger who still uses a flip phone. A moment of self-restraint may lead to a simple nod of disapproval. Between you and me, the flip phone users tend to be happier and calmer than the smartphone users.
6. Tourist Photography Contempt
Maybe it’s just a New York phenomenon, but this refers to the confusion and sense of inconvenience that local people feel when tourists snap thousands of smartphone photos of something unknown. You wonder, “Is it a landmark I never knew of?” or “Has this tourist even seen a street before?” You look up a what they’re capturing and you can’t figure out what about it merits a photo.
7. The Laptop Street Master
The incredible ability to operate a laptop computer while walking down the street. This sighting is rare, but impressive.
8. The Selfie Stickler
A close cousin to the Video Narcissist Police, the Selfie Stickler reserves his anger for anyone who uses a selfie stick. He will never get used to the sight of someone using a selfie stick. Dirty looks are the preferred method of communicating disapproval.
9. The Covert Theater Screen Enforcer
Emboldened by the anonymity offered by a dark movie theater, the Enforcer screams across the theater at anyone whose bright screen is making it hard for everyone behind them to see the movie screen.
10. The Ambivalent Door Holder
The confusion and ambivalence that sets in when you’re stuck holding the door open for a preoccupied texter who isn’t aware of your kind gesture. Depending on your personal digital etiquette policy, you either let go of the door before she walks through or you wait patiently as she slowly comes toward you. I hope it’s the latter.
There’s likely to be a huge generational gap in how inconvenienced people are by these encounters. If you find yourself constantly annoyed by the digitally preoccupied, consider altering your expectations of people’s behavior. Otherwise, your health and happiness will suffer.
Note: My first version of this post included American Dronophobia, the panicked reaction we feel at the site of a hovering drone. I decided that there’s very little that’s funny about this phenemenon so I left it out.
Once again, please feel free to share your experiences and opinions related to digital street etiquette. I’d really like to know what you think.