et·i·quette [et-i-kit, -ket] noun. The customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group.
If one were to analyse the behaviour of UAE residents, they’d probably find a unique concoction of social, political and business etiquettes thanks to the more than 200 countries we come from and the assorted backdrops we sport.
But there’s something common: most UAE residents think it’s rude to use a mobile phone in a social setting, but we do it anyway.
According to an ‘Emirates 24|7’ poll on how often we use our smartphones in social settings that specifically warrant it not be used, only one in ten (11 per cent) said they never used their mobile devices.
The other vast majority – nine in ten respondents, or an overwhelming 89 per cent – confessed to being guilty of breaking the social protocol of using their mobile phones in the presence of others, even when it may be considered outright rude to be using it.
While the findings highlight UAE society’s struggle to strike a balance between conventional courtesies and pervasive electronics, they also underline the technology’s growing impact on social interactions.
A recent US study by Pew Research Centre noted that etiquette has become a challenge as more people keep their smartphones on and with them at all times.
That survey found that conduct which might have been considered rude in the past is now gaining acceptance.
Read: Phone manners: What's your etiquette?
Unfortunately, UAE statistics broadly suggest the same even as we score slightly better when it comes to being attached to our mobiles at family dinners, office meetings or at places of worship.
The road, however, is a different ballgame altogether. Two out of five UAE residents (20 per cent of poll respondents) claim they use their mobile phones while walking down the street – a rather dangerous preoccupation, especially when doubled up with the fact that another 10 per cent admit to talking on the phone while driving.
Considering that a good proportion of both pedestrians and drivers are distracted by their devices, it’s a miracle we still have a semblance of decorum on the roads.
Further, a good 16 per cent claim to use their smartphones while on public transport. One could be excused if the public transport they were travelling in was a taxi and they were the only passenger in it, but using a mobile phone while in a bus, metro or tram should be avoided.
Even for those who may not spare a thought to others’ inconvenience in such a situation, that they’re compromising their own privacy should offer reason enough to refrain from dialling-up.
A further one per cent admit to using the mobile phone at a place of worship even as, strangely, not one of the respondents admitted to talking on the mobile while watching a movie in a theatre. Perhaps we have improved there, or perhaps we don’t care to admit that we haven’t.
Also, just one out of 100 say they use their mobile phones while in a meeting – a sign that we UAE residents take our official and business meetings rather seriously, and have full consideration for our colleagues’ and clients’ time.
We’re a little less considerate, however, when it comes to family dinners and queuing up at the store counters, when 3 and 5 per cent of respondents, respectively, admit to dialling up routinely.
Sadly, one-third of all respondents claim that they use their mobile phones on at least three of the abovementioned occasions, suggesting the breach of common courtesies is a rule rather than exception.
The UAE leads the world in terms of the number of smartphones per person – perhaps we could also lead the world in showing that, in an always-on world, we can remain connected with our social etiquette as much as we remain connected with our devices.