Public displays

My family mock me constantly for the fact that my phone and my right hand spend little time apart.  It doesn’t bother me, I know I’m addicted.  It’s something I’m (sort of) in control of, though will readily admit things have become worse since I got the first of my succession of iPhones.  There are times when I draw the line, but just as with my retail therapy appreciation, I’m very good at justifying my actions.

During #BlogHour last week, one of the questions posed was whether it’s acceptable to take pictures of food when in restaurants.  As the discussion took place on Twitter, the question was phrased with a good deal of brevity and the exact meaning of it was open to interpretation – was it a question of ethics, etiquette or preference?  That would be up to the respondent to decide.  For me, the topic marries up nicely with another debate which continues to bubble (particularly on my “personal” Twitter account and via my Facebook feed): selfies – yes or no?  Whereas the “phones in restaurants” question was aimed at bloggers, the selfie argument stems largely from the vast proportion of the population who seemed to obtain selfie sticks as Christmas presents.

So firstly, phones in public.  My attitude towards this was strongly formed when I was a barista.  This particular miniature career of mine was born in the days pre-iPhones (remember those?) and when, incredibly, mobile phones weren’t quite as prevalent as they are now.  But still, customers would approach the till, yakking away, move the mouthpiece away from their face slightly and – without making eye contact with us – bark, “Latte” and return to their conversation.  There would be at least half a dozen questions I would require an answer to prior to being able to process their order, but did they have the common decency to postpone their conversation?  No.  And how would they feel if the roles were reversed and I were on the phone, or even holding a conversation with a colleague or friend?  Pissed off.

Therefore, my rules are these: it can wait.  I will queue and use my phone, but it gets put away as soon as I am called to whichever counter I am waiting for service at.  I may sneakily check my phone in a restaurant, but only if all other parties I’m with disappear to the bathroom simultaneously (it’s more likely that I would check it on my own bathroom trip).  There’s a great game you can play in restaurants if your companions are phone addicts: place all phones in the middle of the table, stacked up, when you’re first seated.  First person to touch their phone pays the entire bill.  I’ve not tried it, but it’s a game I wouldn’t want to lose!

There are exceptions, though.  Sometimes, it’s nice to have photos of your night out.  It may be a special occasion, it may just be a normal Wednesday, but you could still want to honour the moment.  Even if it’s a flashy place in fact that, to me, is even more of an excuse – you may have saved for ages to be able to afford to dine at your dream restaurant, so of course you want to remember it.  It’s not like the food is a memento!  So snap away.  Take a picture of your plate. Raise your glass and pose for a picture.  Let the staff help you.  And once you’re done, put your phone away and filter, edit and Instagram it later.  Because the conversation you’re having is just as precious.  Other people have dedicated their time to you – enjoy it.

This brings us to selfies.  Yes, we’re all still getting used to a world in which selfie sticks are a thing.  They do look strange, they can get in the way too, because once someone is holding one, they seem to lose all concept of personal space and spatial awareness.  But my friend Ollie summed it up nicely (and he’s a professional photographer):


I read that Tweet, stood up and clapped.  This is an age of high body-consciousness.  A time when we are far quicker to criticise than praise.  And if Mr or Miss Average wants to stick their head above the internet parapet and say, “You know what?  I’m pleased with how I look today” then that’s ok by me.

Pout with your arm out, cherish your £50 pork belly and kale for posterity and enjoy the knowledge that comes with the power of your smartphone.  But remember that it also comes with the responsibility of keeping one foot firmly in the real world with those around you.


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