Manners Stay On

Some clever folks have put together a little site to arm us against the scourge of restaurant cell phone yakkers. Itinerant destroyers of intimacy can now curb those bad behaviors with handy signal-blocking napkins, stamps, and other pieces of well designed bric-a-brac, all sporting some version of the slogan, “My phone is off for you.”

It’s darling, but flawed.

My issue with this isn’t so much that it’s misconceived as that it falls squarely in line with the knee-jerk thinking that confuses technology with behaviors that have been inherent in human psychology since we banged rocks together to produce sparks.

If you can’t exercise self-restraint appropriate to the setting, that’s on you. Pointing to your smartphone as the cause of your social faults is like an alcoholic blaming the bottle for being there. It might be a cue for poor behavior, but the poor behavior is still yours.

Technology is not some weird other that’s at fault, it’s a failure to incorporate it into our lives appropriately that’s the issue. The phone didn’t make you do it. And if the phone wasn’t there to fob that failing off on, you’d find something else to blame. Social cad, heal thyself, not they phone.

So to the operators of this site, I suggest the following gently updated mantra, good for any scenario (not just phones):