As technology expands our communicative reach, new opportunities to be rude inevitably arise. Some people overreact to this incivility by turning to uniform and mechanical etiquette rules, hoping to make things better by constraining choices and limiting situational judgment. But for societies that value diversity and autonomy, general mandates—like expecting everyone to turn off their cell phones in theaters—only work in exceptional cases.
The effects of our cellphones, computers, tablets, and who-knows-what-else on the domestic sphere has become a major cause of concern. Some worry that friends and family are rude to each other, glued as they are to their mobile phones, each alone, together. A popular remedy revolves around a simple game: When you meet up with folks you care about, everyone should put their phones in a stack, and either not retrieve them until the gathering ends, or else pay a penalty for early use, like picking up a dinner bill.
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