Picture the scene. The table is set for dinner, family or friends are ready to sit down, but then you notice it’s not just cutlery and plates laid out – but everyone’s mobile phones, too.
A recent poll from web-hosting company 34SP.com found that 20 per cent of people admitted to using their phone regularly during a meal, while 18 per cent used their phone while on a romantic getaway. No wonder then that one in four people have argued with their partner over checking their phone.
But just when did this kind of dismissive behaviour become acceptable? We may not have had mobile phones back in the days of our childhood, but it was still considered rude not to listen when other people were talking to us. And if we dared to read a book, or cast our attention elsewhere while at the dinner table, we got a right clip round the earhole.
That’s why we couldn’t help but support the recent spate of celebrities who’ve stood up for good manners,
by calling out rude phone users. Actress Jennifer Lawrence recently ticked off a reporter for using his phone at a press conference, while Kevin Spacey, James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch are among the big name actors who’ve erupted on-stage about mobile phones after they’ve interrupted their performance.
Perhaps it’s the all-encompassing role of technology in society that’s altered our perception of manners. Just looking around us, it’s easy to see how many people’s lives now revolve around that tiny phone screen. We’ve all seen people wobbling absent-mindedly down the street or hunched over in the café – a sea of hair crowns buried in phones.
The real shame is that there’s now no room left for the small talk we once exchanged between strangers at the bus stop or in line for the supermarket check out. And it’s sad that while we’re tip-tapping away on our devices, we’re missing the chance to hold the door open for that lady struggling with her bags – who we probably didn’t even notice.
And technology is also affecting our relationships with loved ones. Can a quick text – ‘thanks 4 prezzie gran xx’ – or even an emoji (a smiley face) be an adequate substitute for those thoughtfully hand-written thank you letters we were taught to take pride in as children? Meanwhile, social media ‘trolls’, cyber-bullies and nasty comments online are rife, suggesting the anonymity we’re granted behind the screen has cast aside the niceties and good manners we were taught to practice in real life.
It all begs the question, where will it end? In a recent poll, 80 per cent of parents surveyed put good manners at the top of a list of things parents should encourage in their children.
But as technology becomes even more of a dominant factor in the lives of children – nine out of ten under 16s today have a mobile phone, while one in three have their own tablet – is it likely they will learn their own values and manners not from their parents, but from what they see on their phones?
Values and manners that may look very different to those we Brits are known for holding dear.