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Electronic Displays of Insensitivity' on the Rise

“Silence is permission.”

Image source: Shutterstock

If you've ever become annoyed when your long-awaited lunch conversation was put on hold in favor of a friend's Facebook news feed scroll or an important discussion with your spouse hit a short-circuit every time a new text message came in, the results of new study may have you declaring a great big "I told you so."

Image source: Shutterstock Image source: Shutterstock

In Joseph Grenny's Digital Divisiveness, 87 percent of respondents reported that electronic displays of insensitivity (EDIs) — i.e., the intrusive or inappropriate use of technology — is worse today than it was just a year ago.

More than that, Grenny — author of the New York Times bestseller "Crucial Conversations" — found that of the 2,025 people surveyed, 89 percent reported damaged relationships due to friends and family ignoring them for technology.

It's an insensitivity that a whopping 90 percent of respondents indicated they see every week, The Daily Beast reported.

Indeed. Among the anecdotes noted in the study:

  • A wife emailed her husband, who was sitting across the table, because it was the only way she could rouse his attention from his beloved smartphone;
  • A woman was having a private discussion with his pastor...until a social phone attracted the clergyman's attention;
  • While at a friend's funeral, an attendee’s phone rang just as the casket was leaving the service. The ring tone? “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Electronic displays of insensitivity are "forcing people to be rude who don’t intend to be,” Grenny told the Daily Beast. "People that are being obnoxious don’t know it.”

Among the spots where the study says EDIs happen, 67 percent of respondents noticed them at the dinner table, 52 percent caught wind of them during customer service interactions, and 35 percent observed them while at church — and interestingly, 90 percent of respondents agreed that using technology in such spaces is inappropriate.

Solutions? Well, Greely noted that ignoring EDIs isn't one of them. “These are areas where we overwhelmingly agree we shouldn’t be using technology. There is a social norm, there is consensus, yet we don’t adhere to it,” Grenny told the Daily Beast. “Silence is permission.”

Businesses could also get proactive, e.g., posting signs at checkouts reminding customers to get off their phones as one possible solution.

Greely added that we're slowly learning to nip the issue in the bud, despite the prevalence of bad tech etiquette. "If someone is rude to someone else on Facebook, other people will jump in," he told the Daily Beast. "They play the role of polite border guard — and it works."


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