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Here's a fun game. When you're next at work, on the couch, or on the toilet, make a mental note of how many times you pause to look at your phone. Depending on how self-aware you are, the number may surprise you. But if you're well versed in the art of discreetly flicking through Instagram while feigning attentiveness during a team meeting, the number probably won't surprise you at all. It's going to be high. For the most part, we're all glued to our phones and we all know it. We can't resist emails, Snapchats, or the endorphin punch that comes with knowing that the guy from uni or possibly the hostel you stayed in in Barcelona nine years ago just checked into Yo! Sushi in Victoria station.
We live in the smartphone era, and our incessantly connected digital lives seem to be impinging on our regular ones. We're forgetting how to behave when we're tasked with exchanging actual words with actual humans, pausing stilted conversations to bask in the comfortable light of our LED screens. The more alarmist among us might say we're forgetting how to be humans full stop. So what can we do? Chuck away our phones? Not likely, especially as it's 2016 and a lot of us need them for work and dating. Instead, let's learn to live with them and learn to live away from them. So put your smartphone on airplane mode and pay attention: here's the guide to being a chill guy on your phone (broken down into neat little scenarios).
AT THE DINNER TABLE
If you're lucky enough to regularly have sit-down dinners, then you probably don't need to read this part, but this formalised social practice is becoming so rare that anyone who still does it is fluent in analogue social niceties. Nay, this section is for the ready meal-er, the sandwich for dinner loner, or the gentlemen who considers Perfect Fried Chicken (PFC) fine dining. In other words, a person whose primary eating partner is their phone. People like you.
If, God forbid, you're ever invited to a dinner party, then stick your phone on silent and try to make conversation. You might even meet the love of your life. In reality, you're far more likely to be seated next to someone who you'd happily get hit by a bus to avoid. Even so, this just gives you a chance to get drunk and be weird with few ramifications. And 'Guy who got too drunk at the dinner party and made a fool of himself' is a much better reputation to carry than 'Guy who looked at his phone and spoke to no one.'
ON A DATE
Never ever ever ever look at your phone on a date. Unless your mum is trying to ring you to tell you awful news, literally EVERYTHING can wait. Your housemate is locked out? They can wait. Your dog died? TBH, that can wait. Work urgently needs you? This one can wait even more than the others. Which is good, because it's probably the one most likely to interrupt you.
Remember: unless you work in some sort of medical field, there's a high chance your job is completely pointless. In fact, there's also a high chance that the world would be a better place if your entire company was eradicated. On a date, you're sitting opposite someone who may want to have sex with you at some point in the near future. Do you really want to jeopardise that because this one email, or that urgent report, or the creative campaign for the yoghurt company just has to be completed tonight. No, you do not. No one is going to die if that stuff gets missed. You might get fired the next day, but hey, you'll probably get another job.
You can also check your phone when your date pops to the toilet. That's fine. You can also leg it if the date's going badly.
IN A MEETING
See my point about jobs above. A meeting at the office is the perfect time to check your phone. You're not paying attention anyway, so you might as well fry a few more brain cells by WhatsApping selfies to your mates.
If, at any point, someone calls your name, just ask whoever is leading the meeting to flick back a few slides. This will make it seem like you've been withholding a genius solution the whole time. A bit like in Jaws where Quint slides his nails on the chalkboard. And if you actually manage to say something semi-worthwhile, people might think you're a dark horse who the meeting's lead ignored like the fool he or she is.
And if you don't, just chalk it up to experience and go back to your phone.
According to one study, six percent of the population has turned down sex because they were too busy looking at their phone. Hopefully, this six percent never gets laid again. The legendary American writer Gore Vidal once said, "Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television." This is a concise and memorable rule by which to live your life, so don't break it by checking something you check 9,000 times per day any way.
After all, phones are only going to improve in the distant future. Your sexual organs will not. Stick it on charge when you're between the sheets.
YOUR PARTNER'S PHONE
One study found that 24% of people did their active best to ruin their lives by going out of their way to check their lover's phone. But the rules of this are very simple: a paranoid reconnaissance mission into someone else's inbox is never a good idea.
If someone is cheating on you, you'll probably be able to find out without stealing their pincode. Don't do it.
ON THE TRAIN/BUS/TRAM
Here's a quick breakdown of phone-based activities that are acceptable on public transport: texting, tweeting, anything that makes no sound, filming incidents of public unrest.
And here are a few activities that are a big no no: phone calls, FaceTime, filming, music that others can hear, shouting 'CAN YOU HEAR ME?' when the train goes through a tunnel, surreptitious photo-taking/being a creep in general.
On public transport, as in life, be courteous to others around you.