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King Louis XIV would not approve of you Instagramming his dinner!

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The reported origin of the word etiquette, was in 18th century France, when King Louis XIV and his team decided to host a public garden party for the nobility. This first party saw the King’s precious gardens trampled as the nobility mingled, and I’m going to guess, dined on canapés.  Signs were posted to ward off this unwanted behaviour i.e. “Don’t step on le grass”. These signs became known as “etiquette” or a “ticket” warning you to behave.  The signs however failed to stop the flower trampling…. WHAT? People disobeyed the signs! So the poor King was required to pass a legal decree in order to keep the nobility off his damn flowers. Etiquette then evolved to become the name given to all rules of what members of society should or should not do.

Etiquette or manners, of course vary around the world, and in one country you may appear rude by showing your feet or gasp, your shoulders without even knowing you have caused offense.  King Louis XIV however must be rolling over in his golden grave, when it comes to our modern application of manners and our use of personal technology. The king’s court aside, we all seem to disagree on what constitutes rude behaviour in this regard. You would think it would be classically rude to be on your phone while at a restaurant or at any mealtime for that matter. But for some to be eating sushi side by side, while individually surfing social media is their chosen way to relax and spend time together.

Emily Post observed the following about technology and manners: “People claim they want others to have better mobile etiquette, yet they admitted to lacking that behavior themselves. Eighty percent, in fact, are annoyed when they see others use a mobile device such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet in places such as a grocery store, doctor’s office, public transit, elevator, while on a date or at a wedding or funeral, to name just a few. And yet a whopping 77 percent admit to using a device at one of these times or places

According to a newswire study, with smartphone usage rising steadily, sixty three percent of those surveyed believe mobile phone etiquette is getting worse! Nearly a quarter of respondents have had something unfortunate happen to them because they were distracted while on their phones, such as bumping into another person and walking into a wall or post, being the most common.

Although we may be divided on what constitutes good manners, we can likely agree on what are the worst etiquette offenses. We’ve all witnessed people who consistently answer their phone in meetings, or someone on their phone in the coffee line up, and of course tsk tsk…those who “use” while driving.

According to this funny buzzfeed article – These are some of the worst breeches of mobile phone etiquette (and I will learn to spell that word one day)

  • talking or texting while in a movie
  • holding up the start of a meal while you Instagram photos
  • group text hostage holding
  • asking someone to hold on while you order a latte, muffin etc.
  • using your mobile phone in the bathroom – um while you are on the toilet!!

Here at my work place I wrote guidelines for the use of smart phones while at work, our challenge being that many of our staff do bring their own devices, and frankly we need them to do so. But like King Louis XIV, I learned that signs and guidebooks don’t always work.  Our guidelines then got clearer and now define specifically when it is ok to use phones, while with clients and when it isn’t.  Mostly they are followed by our staff, but we do not currently police usage while in the bathroom!

Lastly to quote Miss Manners who states the importance of good etiquette is needed now more than ever before because “etiquette, far from being an optional extra, is the essential currency of a civilized world.”

Further Reading - Mobile phone etiquette around the world

Topics: non-profit netiquette