I Give Up: Electronic Etiquette is a Lost Cause

Over the last year or two I sometimes noticed individual colleagues sporadically checking their phones for texts and messages during meetings.* I found it puzzling since we insist that students unplug during class.

Then last week I went to a meeting of Washington State’s Education Deans. Suffice to say, between a third and half of everyone was working on their phones and/or laptops during all of our conversations. Thirty people around one large conference table, a dean, state legislator, or school district superintendent talking, and 10-15 people unabashedly reading and sending texts and emails.

That’s a critical mass of distracted participants who’ve given in to the tyranny of the urgent. They’re partly sitting around the conference table and partly back in their offices. Half present at both or half absent?

That query suggests what they’re doing is wrong, but it’s too late in the Information Revolution for that conclusion. It is what it is. Don’t look for me to put any of the toothpaste back in the tube. It’s up to Sherry Turkle. I’m waving a white flag.

A month ago I was in an hour long committee meeting with about eight colleagues from across campus. We were sitting around a smallish conference table in Xavier (for those Lutes keeping score at home). I was distracted by an IT/Librarian colleague who wouldn’t take his eyes of his laptop screen. Fifty five of the sixty minutes. It was as impressive a feat of anti-social disconnectedness as I had ever seen.

5 thoughts on “I Give Up: Electronic Etiquette is a Lost Cause

  1. Well, at least we aren’t allowing our grandchildren to do it (not!). Thing is, we don’t know what they are wired into when in class. They know more than we do about how to surreptitiously participate in all kinds of conversations without us knowing. As you say, good luck putting the toothpaste back…

  2. I’m involved with “Skype” meetings a lot in my practice, as our group spans 3 states. I am convinced that many “on” the meeting are not really there, as I rarely hear from them, and when they are addressed directly, they often ask for the question to be repeated. This is such a waste of everyone’s time, and a waste of great resources. Sometimes, in a meeting of 20 or more people, I really think only 1/4 are engaged. I’m appalled that this is happening when face to face, though. How sad.

  3. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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