Our course and meeting evaluations, along with general comments during breaks, are evolving around one theme: anger about those who spend huge amounts of time looking at their blackberries (or similar device) during meetings and programs. Attendees complain the tapping significantly distracts them from listening. Instructors complain we're not stopping it.
Yes, we say turn cell phones off or set to vibrate; but that's not the issue. It's the tapping on little miniature keyboards during meetings and classes.
The one word that many in group I facilitated used to describe those who check their blackberries during a meeting or in a program is: Rude. They say tapping while others are listening, or constantly looking down to see what message arrived in the last 2 minutes is: Rude. Or the blackberry buzzing on the table and interrupting everyone by the act of getting up to go out to answer a call is: Rude. Diverse age ranges, majority who own/carry devices too.
Of course, I think it's fine, and both present and future way that many are going to participate, even if others believe it's rude. Some had own personal lines between when acceptable and when rude - e.g, if hundreds in the class, it's fine; unless you're the person next to that person and they distract you, then it's rude. Or if it's an emergency pending then fine to check the entire time but ordering holiday gifts or reading blogs - then it's rude. Since person next to you is likely a stranger, so no idea of your tapping purpose, then it's rude.
Notable points from the discussion:
1. Those who check (and respond) consistently believe they're quiet and not distracting. People around them disagree. Are they both right, or not?
2. Many may not engage at all if they can't engage with you AND be communicating simultaneously with others. Like me, they say they can multi-task through anything. Person next to them says they multi-task at expense of those who get stuck listening to tap tap.
3. Is it human nature to notice those who are looking distracted?
4. What happens when those who text their entire lives start to attend our organization conferences and meetings? Tap tap tap. Look down look down.
Someone's in for a rude awakening. The question is, who?