Smartphone Etiquette: Mind Your Manners for the Holidays

This holiday season, jolly old Saint Nick surely has an iPhone app for tracking who has been good and bad. And those of you who breach smartphone etiquette rules may end up on the naughty side of the list.

Given the explosion of mobile Internet use this year, thanks largely to the iPhone, BlackBerry and other smartphones, Harris Interactive (on behalf of Intel) surveyed 2,625 U.S. adults about what they consider proper smartphone etiquette during the most social time of the year.

To be fair, the survey concludes that smartphone etiquette is evolving quickly, as businesses and lifestyles pressure people to always be connected via mobile devices even during meals, vacations and holidays.

Yet there was some consensus about what constitutes good and bad iPhone and BlackBerry behavior today. Read on, or risk being considered rude:

Rule 1: If you must text, head to the bathroom. If you just have to text someone while you're attending a holiday party, go ahead and type it while in the bathroom. It's okay. Really. Unlike religious services (see etiquette rule no. 2), the bathroom doesn't command the same reverence when it comes to mobile technology, according to Harris Interactive.

Three out of four respondents in this survey said it's perfectly appropriate to use your smartphone in the bathroom. (Of course, the longstanding Mars vs. Venus debate on what is appropriate in the bathroom, whether it's reading the newspaper or reading a text message, may shape personal opinions here.) And you'd certainly be wise to keep iPhone activity in the bathroom to silent toilet texting.

Rule 2: Thou must not use the iPhone during religious events. For many people, the holiday season is a time to recharge the spiritual batteries with religious events and gatherings. Such events are not the time to tweet.

Not surprisingly, the Harris Interactive survey found that an overwhelming majority of online adults have zero tolerance for people breaching iPhone etiquette at holiday services or even using mobile devices at religious venues. Religion clearly trumps technology.

Yet experts are quick to point out that mobile etiquette is constantly evolving, even in the religious community. Case in point: Father David Rickey of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in San Francisco, founded in 1867, is a self-proclaimed tech geek. He often has a Bluetooth sticking out of his ear, and his mobile phone plan has unlimited texting. Not only is he on Twitter and Facebook, but also, he webcasts his services.

Of course, he doesn't respond to text messages when he's in the middle of a service. "When I can feel the ring, I think: I wonder who that is?" he said in a TV news interview, "and it distracts me, so I put [the phone] in the drawer."

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