Are you tweeting this?

How many times in the last, say, week,  have you sat down with a friend and they leave their laptop or iPhone out, with Twitter rolling across the screen?

How many panels, speakers or meetings have you attended where either you, or the person two seats down, sent texts, tweets and emails during?

How flattered to you feel when someone puts their phone or computer away to talk to you?

Some time ago, having dinner with a guy, I realized that I was on a date. You know why? I put my computer away and he put his iPhone down. We made dinner. We watched a movie. We talked. It was really nice.

Disconnecting together, with another person, is one of my favorite things. It even has it’s own name now: “face-time.” Twenty years ago, you just saw your friends and business associates. Now you have face-time.

There was a time when looking constantly at your phone during a meeting or while having a drink with your friend was considered the ultimate in rudeness. Now, while at the bar I see friends pulling out their iPhones. You know what I do when I see them flipping through Tweetie? I ask, “Anything interesting going on?” With my friends who I know are cool about it, I’ll even peek over their shoulder.

When people in congress started tweeting the State of the Union the “Media” got their panties in a bunch over the whole thing because “no one was paying attention to the President.”

This week, while sitting in the Social Fresh keynote, sitting on the floor because the room was packed with over 200 people, I heard a lot of clicking. I had my laptop open and the #SoFresh tag refreshing on my screen. It was fascinating to sit and listen to a presentation and see the live feedback of all the other smart people in the room.

I had a meeting with Jeff Elder yesterday. I was wondering why he was late. He sent me a direct message saying basically “I’m here,” which suggested I was in the wrong place. I was. Thankfully, Twitter saved our meeting – why? Because he saw I was at the computer and clearly not where I was supposed to be. (In my hurry, I’d picked the wrong place.)

I’ve got a hundred other little examples like these. I’m sure you do to. Even if you don’t use Twitter – there’s Facebook and similar applications. Technology, and how we’re integrating it into our socialization, is changing the way we function in our world and how we connect with each other.

We’re still working out the new rules of etiquette and healthy disconnection. I had to suggest, gently or not so gently, to a couple people at SoFresh that maybe they didn’t need to use their phone during their chair massage. I only let Ty Downing, because it had become a joke at this point, and he tweeted it.

How much permission do we need? Who puts away the phone first? Can we ask the other person to step away from the twitters? How do we feel about these changes? What is normal? What is not?

Every relationship – from business to friendship to marriages – have different rules. Someone this week told me that they’re allowed to tweet from the bathroom on dates, this is the deal with their husband.

Individual people have different policies. During one conversation I was a part of Monday, someone you might not expect said they unplug a lot. I wasn’t surprised, but others were. You’d be surprised too how disconnected I am from things. (It’s really about having the right tools.)

What’s your policy? Do you have one? How do you feel about twitter use in public? or during face time? Do you and your friends or partner have rules about use during dinner? How is this new connectivity changing your interactions?

(photo credit: Armando Bellmas)

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13 thoughts on “Are you tweeting this?

  1. Great post, Summer. This is something I think about often.

    Typically, I follow the rules of the group with which I am interacting. If the group is Tweeting, then I take the liberty of checking my phone because I know they understand the behavior. If it’s a more traditional crowd, I silence my phone and only check when it’s appropriate to be polite. And I definitely unplug on occasion!

    • I think about it a lot too – I don’t check twitter on my phone, and I’m a bit more aware because I use a netbook.

      I too follow the rules – a lot of my friends I socialize with are on twitter, and there’s a fair amount of “we’re all here with so and so” tweeting that goes on when we’re out. Usually one person pulls their phone out during a lull, and they all come out. At which point, I’m peeking over someone’s shoulder.

  2. Good Post well said and stuff to think about. Ties in with the multi-tasking article. When we do several things at once what is our focus? If we don’t have one whats the point…

    • I’m a Very focused person. The guys in my co-working group joke about how they’re afraid to interrupt me when I’m in the zone. Twitter, Facebook, etc, can be very distracting.

      We only have so much brain space. I think the more we shut out, the more meaning that thing or person we are paying attention to means to us. I mean, who wants to be on a date and the dudes updating his facebook status?

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  5. Great post. I gave some training last night on listening skills, somewhat based on the premise in this quote by Richard Moss:

    “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”

    My personal policy is that when I’m with someone, I’m with that person and not with my blackberry/twitter/phone, etc. I suppose as a leadership coach I’ve had more listening practice than most, but I’ve always been this way. I want my attention to be pure and for people to know that I care not because I say I do, but because I show that I do.

    • Thank you for sharing that. In one-on-one contexts I rarely access the net or my text messages. Usually only if it comes up… the date situation I mentioned was with someone else just as connected as I am, and we were talking about Twitter stuff earlier in the evening, so had it open as we discussed it.

      I spend a lot of time with my clients, and that’s a time when the phones are off, the world is outside the doors and stays there for an hour or so. I hope it’s as much of a gift to people as my work is. I know I love time where I’m given someone’s complete and loving attention.

      Where as in group settings, like at the bar with my group of friends, it seems there’s much more twitter scanning and text messaging. Especially when everyone’s got a fancy phone.

  6. Yeah, we don’t use it while we’re actually eating or anything like that. Sometimes Todd will read me Tweets while we drive around, or sometimes, when we get in bed at night, we actually catch up on our phones (my BB and his G1 respectively) and laugh and quote the people we follow. Sometimes it’s a thing my sig other and i share almost…to bond over and start conversation over. but when it’s face time, the phone’s in the purse and we try to enjoy each other’s company. 🙂

  7. and if something is totally hilarious or noteworthy when we ARE out, we make a joke of tweeting. Like, saying outloud…”I HAVE to tweet that.” haha. and being goofy nerds about it.

    • Absolutely. There’s a lot of “I have to tweet that!” in our circle. Thanks girl! I imagine a lot of couples have similar guidelines.

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