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Mobile phones and social networks are turning us into a bunch of whiners

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Your status updates are too whiney, your cursing is off-putting and, for crying out loud, can you please stop texting while walking?

That’s what your fellow humans are thinking as you walk around starting at your mobile phone immersed in your online life, according to the Mobile Etiquette and Digital Sharing survey commissioned by Intel (s intc).

The survey found that six out of 10 Americans think you complain too much on social media, while in every place expect China, people perceived that our mobile manners were deteriorating. These gaffes include talking about private matters in public places, watching porn in inappropriate places (like in the airplane seat next to my 6-year-old, perv in 12C) and texting while driving (and walking). Surprisingly, Intel didn’t include a category for people who talk on their phones in public bathrooms, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that it’s poor etiquette as well.

The study looked at both bad manners with mobile phones and poor etiquette with sharing information online in general. With the bad manners online, it boils down to complaining a lot and talking excessively about your cat — unless, of course, your cat is Maru or Winston-san or any number of famous Internet cats.

There are two things worth pointing out about this slightly silly survey:  the first is that while this was dubbed a mobile manners survey, it really has more to do with being online — it’s just the immediacy and prevalence of mobile sharing makes it more intrusive in our day-to-day interactions and more impulsive, so when we encounter that irritating dip in a subway stair that we always trip over we can finally tweet about it.

The other element of this survey is more subtle. It’s that this new era of constant connectedness and social sharing has made the online world a fixture of our culture and human experience on par with commuting or office work. That’s why on one hand it’s easy to tell people they share too much, and on the other to give cat videos a film festival or aggregate those irritated tweets into a video that goes viral and results in a fix for that wayward stair step.

So as much as we complain (remember, Americans hate that) about mobile manners, this is really just the collective friction of meeting and making rules about a new venue in our public lives. Many of those who overshare on Facebook will learn their lessons and some won’t. Much like some people still eat tunafish sandwiches at their desk or smack their lips while they chew their gum. In the meantime, the Internet will take those bits of information and turn them into entertainment, memes or even civic improvements.

Some other interesting bits from the survey as it related to the U.S.:

  • One out of five U.S. adults (19 percent) admits to sharing false information online.
  • Forty-two percent of U.S. teens feel like they are missing out if they are not able to share or consume information online.
  • Four out of 10 U.S. teens (42 percent) are more comfortable sharing information online than in public settings

Internationally, manners and standards are a bit different:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 of adults in Indonesia (87 percent) report one of their top online sharing pet peeves is people who use profanity.
  • More than 4 out of 10 adults in India (44 percent) have been embarrassed by or regretted something they have shared online.
  • Seventy-two percent of adults in France say they typically choose not to associate with people whose opinions they disagree with online.
  • Sixty-five percent of adults in Brazil said one of the top reasons they share information online is to express opinions or make statements, and over half (54 percent) share information online to make new friends.

In all honesty, the biggest concern as we develop our online culture isn’t about etiquette, it’s about corporations and governments taking that information we share and using it for surveillance, marketing and profiteering. But that’s far less obvious than someone walking into a fountain mid-text.

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