Ultrasound ghosts

Survey: People are dumber and more narcissistic than we ever dared dream

Okay, maybe that headline is a wee bit hyperbolic. But dig the results of a recent study Harris Interactive. They asked people about their cell-phone etiquette, and got the following results:

… 86 percent of wireless phone subscribers believe they rarely or never engage in discourteous cell-phone use. However, 50 percent believe Americans are generally discourteous when using cell phones.

Nice. So, Houston, we have a problem: At least 36 per cent of the population are too self-absorbed — or too stupid — to notice that they’re pissing everyone else off.

Actually, to be fair to these legions of morons, I think some of the problems are latent in mobile-phone design. Mobile phones have become so tiny and small that they no longer resemble, well, phones. Pick up the average mobile phone today, and it doesn’t look much different from holding a stapler to your head. And therein lies the ergonomic problem. Old-fashioned phones, which I collect, are an example of good ergonomic design: They cradle your head and wrap around directly in front of your mouth, so the machine feels like it’s listening to you. You feel like you can whisper into it. But because today’s tiny mobile phones have no sense of phone-ness, we have no sense that the phone is listening to us. The tiny speaker-hole is floating off somewhere near our earlobe. On some level, we can’t help but feel that there is no way in hell this is picking up our voices. So we bellow. We yell. No matter how much experience we’ve had using mobile phones, we bawl into them at full volume.

(Thanks to Techdirt Wireless News for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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