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Social Etiquette: Talk, Telephone, Text or Tweet?

Can you believe it? A person was having a long and loud cell phone conversation while exercising beside me at the gym! We were both on elliptical machines. I agree, depending upon how vigorously you’re working out, it is possible to have face-to-face conversations with others you meet and greet at the gym – short conversations being the ideal. But, Mr. Long-winded was talking for over half of my 20 minute workout, and actually drove one person away to another machine after having to listen to such annoying ramblings. And, of course, Mr. Long-winded was totally oblivious to anyone’s annoyance.

It got me thinking about social etiquette and the use of modern technology in a situation like this.

From his perspective, Mr. Long-winded obviously didn’t care what others were thinking. He continued on with his loud, chatty-chatty exercise routine insensible to others or – even worse – on purpose to annoy others.

Oh, look at me and how important and smart I am. I can talk on the phone and exercise at the same time!!!

If his talk had been about more urgent matters there may have been more leeway; but, his casual, shrill banter about who was “doing” who seemed to make it even more inappropriate.

Would I have thought differently if Mr. Long-winded was simply talking to another person who walked up to his machine or was working out beside him? Probably not.

For the most part, many gym-goers (including me) rely on headphones plugged into music or podcasts to distract us from the pain of exercise-burn, the noise of fellow sweat-makers, or the gym-socializing that goes on around us.  We can usually tune out the surrounding din and focus on the exercise at hand.  Yet, I could actually hear this guy’s conversation over my music! If this same loud conversation had been going on face-to-face for ten minutes and I overheard their talking within my own little iPod world, I’d still be annoyed.

Then I started thinking about social etiquette and the use of other forms of social technology in a place like the gym. Thank goodness for mp3s, iPods and iPhones to keep us motivated while exercising; but would I have thought differently if he was somehow managing to maneuver the machine while texting to someone at the same time. Probably not.

As a matter of fact, I might actually find it amusing watching his elliptical arms try to text – especially for over ten minutes. I’m sure he’d only manage to type out a few sentences, but what’s the point? It’s not usually part of  exercising. Or are we so digitally-addicted we can’t step back from it – even while exercising?

Then there’s Twitter. This I can perhaps understand a little better if one wants to quickly inform the world about your most recent activity (exercising) or link/send some immediate relevant information. Even browsing Twitter to retweet might be easier if you really felt the need to communicate with someone else while exercising. But again, what’s the point? It’s not usually part of exercising – or has this changed recently? Am I missing out? Should I be pulling out the iPhone and calling all my friends while swimming now?

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are great health & fitness apps like DailyBurn that can be used to list or track your exercises while you’re actually exercising, but they’re meant for simple, fast input – not lengthy conversations or ongoing data drivel.

So, I think it wasn’t so much that he was talking on his cell phone but that he was talking LOUDLY on his cell phone; and it wasn’t so much that he was talking LOUDLY on his cell phone, but that he was talking LOUDLY and LONG on his cell phone; and it wasn’t so much that he was talking LOUDLY and LONG on his cell phone, but that he was using TECHNOLOGY at the WRONG time in the WRONG place.

Am I right or am I wrong?

Do we go to a fitness place to exercise or socialize? Or perhaps this is taking mutli-tasking to the next level? Are you there to focus and get fit or talk, telephone, text or tweet?

I’m all for communicating and exchanging knowledge and experience – especially sometimes in a timely manner – as I think it’s vital to the development of new ideas, meeting deadlines or creating effective relationships. Current technology and use of social media provides us with this great opportunity. But isn’t there still a proper time and place?

I hope so! Or next time, you might be the one overhearing that long, loud and annoying cell phone conversation at the gym!

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One response to “Social Etiquette: Talk, Telephone, Text or Tweet?

  1. David Phipps May 13, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I am certain that a shrill, loud 10 minute in person conversation at the gym about who was doing whom would annoy me. Sure the phone was involved but the one on this end of the phone was rude, phone notwithstanding.

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